Ford, facing greater demand for its F-Series trucks, is adding a third shift and hiring more than a thousand new workers at its final assembly plant in Claycomo, Missouri where the popular F-150 pick-up is built, the auto maker said.
The move is part of Ford adding a total of 2,000 jobs and expanding capacity at the plant outside of Kansas City, Missouri.
"We are going to step up operations at Kansas City to ensure we have enough trucks to meet customer demand," said Joe Hinrichs, Ford's Americas President.
After Ford ramps up F-Series production in the third quarter it will prepare the Missouri plant for the launch of its new Ford Transit full-size van in 2014.
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Pick-up Demand Picks Up
While the pace of auto sales in the U.S. is slowing after growing at a double-digit clip in the last three years, demand for pick-up trucks is accelerating.
Small business owners and contractors have started replacing their work trucks in part because the economy is improving, but also because the latest pick-ups are more fuel efficient and more cost effective.
F-Series sales are up 19.1 percent this year, while total auto sales in the U.S. have increased 6.9 percent.
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"The truck segment is growing three times faster than the overall industry," said Hinrichs. "The housing market is strengthening; we are seeing growth in the U.S. economy."
F-Series Sales Rebound
2007 - 228,343
2008 - 192,951
2009 - 110,336
2010 - 143,985
2011 - 172,062
2012 - 191,280
2013 - 227,873
Running at Capacity
Once Ford adds a third shift in Kansas City, it will have two final assembly plants running at close to max capacity as they build F-Series trucks. Ford is already running three shifts cranking out F-Series trucks at its plant in Dearborn, Michigan.
Analysts estimate Ford is now running its final assembly plants in North America at 90 percent of their capacity. In many cases assembly lines are running more than 20 hours a day.
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It's a big change from the state of Ford's North American operations when Alan Mulally became CEO in late 2006. At the time, Ford was losing billions with too many plants building too few vehicles.
Between 2007 and 2010, Ford streamlined operations by laying off thousands and shutting down inefficient plants. Since 2010, Ford has hired 6,500 workers in North America and has re-tooled many of its remaining plants. Those plants are increasingly running three shifts every day.
Last week Ford, posted its most profitable quarter ever for its North American operations, earning $2.4 billion.
-By CNBC's Phil LeBeau. Follow him on Twitter @LeBeauCarNews
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