May 13, 2003

New Freestar minivan prototypes roll off assembly line in Oakville, Ontario

Oakville, Ontario – Prototypes of the 2004 Ford Freestar have begun rolling off a new high-tech body assembly line at the Oakville Assembly Plant in Ontario, just in time for the plant’s 50th anniversary.

The new Freestar, which goes on sale this fall, benefits from a new robot-intensive body assembly area – part of a recent $600 million revitalization of the plant which produced its first vehicle on May 11, 1953.

In addition to providing spot-perfect welds in a more environmentally friendly workplace, the new body assembly process builds the under-floor structure that accommodates Freestar’s “fold-flat” third row seat, a significant new feature in the all-new, seven-passenger minivan.

Todd Bryant, plant manager, said OAP would continue to build prototypes – each progressively closer to final production quality – leading up to Freestar’s Job One later this summer. Ford of Canada’s president & CEO, Alain Batty joined in today’s ceremony marking the plant’s golden anniversary.

“Ford’s $600 million investment in the Oakville Assembly Plant assured its unique position as the only source of Ford Freestar and Mercury Monterey minivans for the entire world. The investment was consistent with Ford’s century-long commitment to doing business in Canada, and a great birthday gift to a very deserving facility,” said Batty.

The 2004 Freestar, which replaces the Windstar, will include new features like: optional safety canopy side curtain air bag system for all three rows of seating; improved access to the third row seat which can fold flat into the floor without having to remove the head restraints; a new cabin and instrument panel design; the largest engine in a minivan – the new 4.2-litre V-6, standard on all Canadian models – offering best-in-class torque for improved passing and towing performance; a new power liftgate, which will be available later in the model year; the latest generation Ford four-speed automatic transmission; and a new, larger four-wheel disc brakes with a new “Panic Brake Assist” system as standard on models equipped with Ford’s AdvanceTrac stability enhancement system.

Located in Oakville, Ontario, near Toronto, Ford’s Oakville Assembly Plant was opened in 1953. In 2003, during its 50th year in operation, OAP becomes Ford’s exclusive global source for the new Ford Freestar and Mercury Monterey minivans. OAP employs 3,400 men and women, the majority of whom are hourly employees who work on vehicle assembly. OAP sits on 195 hectares (487 acres) and the buildings themselves total 347,000 m2 (3.8 million ft2). OAP houses a body shop, paint facility and an assembly line. OAP operates on 2 shifts, each of which runs 8, 9 or 10 hours a day.

In 2002, OAP produced 211,000 vehicles to add to its historical production of over eight million vehicles since it opened in 1953.

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