Chicago, Illinois – Ford will build the next-generation Explorer at its Chicago Assembly Plant beginning in the fourth quarter of 2010. The current Explorer and Explorer Sport Trac are produced in Louisville, Kentucky.

Ford is investing nearly US$400 million into its Chicago plant to launch production, and will add 1,200 new jobs to staff a second production shift at Chicago Assembly and increase production at the nearby Chicago Stamping Plant.

The Explorer will be built on a flexible assembly line alongside the new Ford Taurus and Lincoln MKS sedans.

The new model will feature unibody construction, Ford’s EcoBoost engine technology, a six-speed transmission and lightweight materials, and is expected to deliver at least 25 per cent better fuel economy than the current model, which is body-on-frame. It will also debut the auto industry’s first-ever production inflatable seatbelts, designed to provide additional protection for rear-seat occupants. The belts spread crash forces over five times more body area than conventional seatbelts, helping to reduce pressure on the chest and control head and neck motion. Ford eventually plans to offer the technology on other vehicles globally.

The shift in production paves the way for Louisville Assembly to transform into a flexible plant producing fuel-efficient small cars. The company will begin producing new vehicles based on its global C-car platform at the Kentucky facility in 2011, with specific models to be named at a later date.

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