STERLLING HEIGHTS — Ford Motor Co. said it launched a new era of clean tech and job growth with a new flexible assembly line at Van Dyke Transmission Plant, making Ford North America’s only producer of front-wheel-drive hybrid transmissions.

Ford and suppliers are investing $220 million to transform Van Dyke Transmission into a modern operation capable of producing Ford’s new hybrid transmission — HF35 — as well as other fuel-efficient transmissions. The investments are part of a $632 million commitment Ford and its suppliers are making to increase capacity and flexibility at three North American transmission facilities by 2015.

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The new assembly line and other capacity actions at Van Dyke Transmission include the addition of 225 new jobs, part of Ford’s commitment to add 12,000 U.S. hourly jobs by 2015. The plant recently added 130 jobs as part of the hybrid transmission launch, with the remaining workers scheduled to start work by the end of the month. Van Dyke now has a total of 1,350 workers.

“Our investments in Van Dyke Transmission make it our most advanced, efficient transmission plant in the world,” said Jim Tetreault, vice president of North America Manufacturing. “This demonstrates our commitment to bringing jobs and technology back into Ford and North America — actions that not only benefit our employees but our customers and the communities where we do business.”

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HF35, which incorporates two electric motors, is the first hybrid transmission to be designed and built by Ford. Previously, hybrid transmission production was handled by a supplier in Japan. By bringing the development work in-house, Ford reduced development costs 20 percent.

Investments at Van Dyke include manufacturing, capital equipment, launch and engineering costs, and supplier tooling upgrades. New flexible equipment allows the plant to build both HF35 and 6F, a conventional six-speed automatic transmission, at the same time.

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Ford engineered the HF35 and upgraded the controls with a goal of creating the industry’s highest-performing, smoothest-operating hybrid transmission. Among this hybrid transmission’s innovations:
* Electric motors capable of operating at higher electric speeds
* A super-efficient new cooling system that enables higher speeds in electric drive
* Optimized gear ratios enabling improvement in fuel economy
* More precise controls to deliver higher levels of refinement as the powertrain transitions between engine and electric drive
* Reduced weight to help increase fuel economy