Production of the new 2017 Ford Escape crossover has started at the Louisville Assembly Plant in Kentucky – a sprawling, 3.7 million square-foot plant with more than 4,700 hourly workers.
Louisville Assembly has been building the Ford Escape since 2012, when the current third generation first entered production. Last year, the plant set a new record, putting out 306,492 units, without sacrificing quality. In fact, the 2015 Ford Escape was tied for the title of Highest-Ranked Compact SUV by JD Power.
To ensure that the new 2017 model is built to just as high a standard as the pre-facelift Ford Escape, the automaker has updated Louisville Assembly with a number of “attention-to-detail” stations. They include:
- An automated instrument panel decking station, at which a robotic arm precisely fits and installs the panel, applying a few bolts to secure it until workers can finish the process. The automated machine guarantees superior accuracy and repeatability, according to Ford Escape Chief Engineer Milton Wong, with comparatively few squeaks and rattles in the finished product as a result.
- Automated door and liftgate installation stations, which have been in use since Louisville Assembly since the plant first started producing the 2013 Ford Escape. Again, precision is guaranteed, meaning a tight fit with fewer unsightly panel gaps.
- A door “easy speed testing” station, where a worker temporarily applies sensors to door openings and then closes the door by hand. The sensors measure the amount of force required to shut the door, which must be within a certain range. The result is doors that are easier to actuate and live with on a daily basis.
- A “vehicle on wheels cell,” where robotic arms with laser measuring equipment scan and verify every panel gap, making sure that they all fall within a standard range.
- A customer assurance line, where a 14-person team goes over every minute detail on the finished Ford Escape, checking the engine, electrical modules, and more. Ford likens the inspection team’s “frenzied precision” to that of a racing pit crew.
The Louisville Assembly Plant is home to some 20.1 miles of assembly conveyor, with plenty of stops along the way for something to go wrong. These “attention-to-detail” stations are meant to prevent that from happening.
The 2017 Ford Escape will go on sale this coming May.