Ford Motor Co.'s Lima, Ohio, factory is key to the No. 2 automaker's future, with the firm planning to build a new V-6 engine there to be used in 20 percent of its vehicles by 2010.
The engine is to go into production next fall for use in two "crossover" wagons to debut next year, the 2007 Ford Edge and Lincoln Aviator, the company said. Demand for crossover wagons is increasing as sales of traditional sport-utility vehicles slide.
A $335 million investment in the northwest Ohio plant was announced in 2003 to make a 3.5-liter engine with more power and better fuel economy than existing Ford V-6s. At that time, Ford said production would start by late this year, saving 800 jobs and helping ensure the future of the factory that was built in 1957. Workers were excited.
Yesterday's announcement moved the production start to next year. Ford officials did not say why the project was delayed.
United Auto Workers officials at the factory could not be reached for comment.
The factory, which also makes V-8 engines, improved in its productivity in Harbour Consulting's latest industry report, in June, but still ranked last in the nation among engine plants. Its V-6 line ranked second among eight comparable factories. The plant has about 1,600 workers.
Ford now relies on a 3-liter V-6, which generates less power than competitors' engines. The company's new Lincoln Zephyr sedan, quipped with the engine, has 221 horsepower; General Motors Corp.'s Cadillac CTS offers a 3.6-liter V-6 with 255 horsepower.
The Ford crossover vehicles that will be first to get the new engines also will have the company's new six-speed automatic transmission, which the company says can improve fuel economy by up to 7 percent and reduce noise and vibration.
The new engine, which is the same size as the previous V-6, is designed to accommodate advanced technologies such as gas-electric hybrid capability and direct injection, which lowers emissions by injecting fuel straight into the engine.
Putting the new engine into one out of five Ford's models "would exceed Lima's capacity," said Barb Samardzich, a Ford vice president. She declined to say how quickly other engine plants would add the engine.
In 2003, Ford officials said Lima could make 325,000 of the new engines annually. No production figure was given yesterday.