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Ford Leans on Six Speeds

Ford has set the goal of equipping more than 1.4 million of its cars and trucks with 6-speed automatic transmissions by the end of 2009.

Ford has set the goal of equipping more than 1.4 million of its cars and trucks with 6-speed automatic transmissions by the end of 2009. A critical piece of that goal will be filled by the company’s Sterling Heights (MI) transmission plant, home of the 6F50 (Ford Taurus, Taurus X, Edge, Flex, Mercury Sable, Lincoln MKX and MKS) and 6F35 (’09 Ford Escape, Mercury Mariner and Mazda Tribute) front-drive gearboxes. Ford invested more than $370 million at the facility over a 14-month period, installing new CNC machining centers, gantry systems and assembly lines, along with the initiation of new processes designed to improve product quality. The plant now uses imbedded RFID chips to track tool life and assure proper tool usage. All transmissions are hot tested for two minutes before shipping. New workstation gantry systems reduce the amount of floor space needed, compared to the previous 4-speed manufacturing line; installed buffers provide added flexibility to manufacture multiple variants in various sequences. Ford plans to manufacture 650,000 units of each transmission at the plant annually.—KMK