A top Ford Motor Co. top official today said that the carmaker is committed to keeping the Woodlawn Stamping Plant in production, even in the face of slumping car sales.
The assurance was given as the results of a $260 million investment in the plant and two 1992 model cars, which will include parts produced here, were shown to the news media today.
The investment was described as virtually creating a new stamping plant within the confines of the old one. It was said to assure the plant will remain here for the foreseeable future.
The press briefing and tour were held in conjunction with the national introduction of the 1992 Ford Crown Victoria. The Buffalo site was one of six in the country, including Detroit and New York City, where the new car, which is not yet in production, was introduced.
Buffalo was the only area where both the Crown Vic and the 1992 Mercury Grand Marquis were on display. It marked the East Coast introduction of the Grand Marquis.
When the new press lines at the stamping plant go into full production this spring, they will supply 40 percent of the metal body work of the two new cars, which will be assembled in St. Thomas, Ont.
Roman Krygier, who heads Ford's Stamping Division, said that metal stampings for a proposed new Ford mini-van to be built in Oakville, Ont., will be made at Woodlawn if the vehicle becomes a reality.
Krygier, who was manager of the Woodlawn plant from 1977 until 1983, said the $260 million investment "is a clear indication that Ford is committed to the Buffalo stamping plant. It means that Buffalo will be able to maintain its employment at, or near, current levels and will play a major role in this area's economy for many years to come."
Roy Aeschbacker, president of United Auto Workers Local 797, which represents the 2,300 hourly paid workers, asserted that the massive improvements "give our membership a stability of employment which should last for years."
Krygier said that, with the new facilities, "there isn't a stamping plant anywhere with technology more current than Buffalo."
Although doors, body panels and other parts of the Grand Marquis and Crown Vic are scheduled to make up one-third of the plant's production, the new presses give Ford increased flexibility in converting the lines to making parts for other models.
Krygier also announced that the plant will be given the company's Q-1 Award, a coveted distinction within the corporation for meeting high quality standards. Winning the award is a factor in management decisions to keep or add work at the plant.
In his remarks, Krygier praised the cooperation of the plant's employees and the help of the UAW in making the new press lines a reality. He said that the company has spent $2 million and the state $900,000 in training the workers to use the sophisticated high-tech presses and other equipment.
One of the most imposing additions is a Japanese-made enclosed tandem stamping line, which is two stories high and longer than a football field.
The new Crown Victoria was described as having a computerized traction control system that gives drivers more steering control when accelerating and stopping.
It is more aerodynamic than the current model and has more glass. It is powered by a new 4.6-liter V-8 engine that is 40 pounds lighter than the current engine but produces 40 more horsepower.
The car is aimed at middle-aged and older drivers with a median income of about $44,000, a segment of the market that is growing, according to Roger Olson, Buffalo district sales manger.