UPDATE 1-Ford to build Explorer in Chicago, add jobs-source

* Next version of Explorer slated for Chicago Assembly

* Ford will add 1,200 jobs at the Chicago plant

* Louisville plant to be converted to small-car production

* Ford to post fourth-quarter results on Thursday
(Adds details on Explorer sales, background on Ford Chicago
assembly plant)

By David Bailey

DETROIT, Jan 25 (BestGrowthStock) – Ford Motor Co (F.N: ) plans to
announce on Tuesday that it will build the next version of its
Explorer sport-utility vehicle at its Chicago assembly plant,
adding 1,200 jobs, a source familiar with the matter said.

Ford already builds the Ford Taurus and Lincoln MKS sedans
at the Chicago plant, which currently has about 1,300 hourly
workers represented by the United Auto Workers union.

Ford spokesman Todd Nissen declined to comment.

The Chicago plant, which opened in 1924, was one of five in
the United States that was promised a new vehicle program in
February when the UAW approved a cost-cutting agreement with
the automaker.

The Chicago assembly plant had about 2,300 workers before
it went to a single shift in summer 2008.

The announcement of the move is expected to come two days
before Ford releases its fourth-quarter and full 2009 earnings
results and at a time when it has been gaining both market
share and critical raves for a revamped product line.

Ford has scheduled a news conference with Mark Fields,
Ford’s president of the Americas, Illinois Governor Pat Quinn
and others at the Chicago plant on Tuesday.

UAW officials also are expected to attend the event.

The person who discussed Ford’s production plans asked not
to be named because a formal announcement has not been made.

It was not clear whether workers for the additional
Chicago-based jobs would be hired in at a second-tier wage of
$14 per hour.

That lower hourly wage is about half of what current UAW
assembly workers make. Ford, GM and Chrysler won the right to
hire new workers at that wage rate as part of an effort to
bring labor costs in line with wages paid to non-union workers
at factories run by rivals led by Toyota Motor Corp. (7203.T: )

The Explorer has been built at Ford’s Louisville assembly
plant in Kentucky, one of three truck plants being converted to
produce smaller vehicles. Ford has not announced which vehicles
will be built in Louisville.

The only large U.S. automaker not to reorganize under a
government-managed bankruptcy, Ford has said that it expects to
be solidly profitable in 2011. However, many analysts believe
Ford will be profitable in 2010 and Ford is expected to update
its outlook on Thursday.

Sales of the Explorer have slipped sharply from the peak of
the SUV boom of a decade ago but the vehicle remains a key part
of Ford’s line-up. Explorer sales peaked at more than 445,000
in 2000, and sales averaged about 412,000 per year from 1995
through 2003.

Sales of the Explorer fell 34 percent to 52,190 in 2009 but
the aging SUV still outsold the Taurus and MKS.

Sales of the Taurus, also a one-time driver of Ford profits
during its heyday in the 1980s and 1990s, fell 13 percent in
2009 to 45,617. Lincoln MKS sales fell 32 percent to 17,174.


(Reporting by David Bailey and Bernie Woodall; editing by
Carol Bishopric)

UPDATE 1-Ford to build Explorer in Chicago, add jobs-source