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Ford celebrates reopening of Dearborn truck plant

Tracy Samilton/Michigan Radio

Ford Motor Company's Dearborn truck plant is back online.

The automaker stripped the plant to its bare bones to remake it for building an aluminum F-150.

The lighter truck will get significantly better fuel economy, as well as better hauling and towing capacity.

During a media tour of the new body shop, Chief Engineer Ron Ketelhut pointed out that some things are missing –sparks, for example, and a deafening wall of noise.

Instead of welding the body together, (noisy, dirty, and hot work), the robots use rivets.

Ketelhut says workers were astonished their first day on the new plant floor.

"They just couldn't believe how quiet and clean it was ... and it's still that way. It's extremely quiet," he says.

Ford replaced all the robots in the body shop.  Many of the new ones are smaller, because they're moving lighter aluminum parts.

Credit Tracy Samilton/Michigan Radio
Forbes' Joanne Muller is either very, very strong - or she's lifting an auto part made of aluminum.

And workers who handle parts often do not need lift assists because of the lighter weight of the components.

Ford also took members of the media on the so-called "rough road, in a just-finished F-150.   The rumble strips and bumps are designed to vigorously shake the truck to make sure it was assembled correctly; meanwhile, the driver also tests things like the horn, brakes, windshield wipers and other features.

Every F-150 goes over the rough road before it's shipped to dealers.  T. Farnese took a group of reporters out on the rough road to experience what it's like.  You can hear listen below.  (I think you can hear our teeth knocking!)

Tracy Samilton covers energy and transportation, including the auto industry and the business response to climate change for Michigan Public. She began her career at Michigan Public as an intern, where she was promptly “bitten by the radio bug,” and never recovered.