In the fourth venture between a U.S. and Japanese automaker, Ford Motor Co. and Nissan Motor Corp. said Monday they will jointly build a minivan at a Ford plant in Ohio.
Ford said it will invest $1 billion in the project, which will turn out 130,000 minivans a year beginning in 1991 at the Ohio Truck Plant in Avon Lake, Ohio.The two automakers, second-largest in their respective countries, have been discussing the project for the last 13 months. It will mean 1,300 new jobs and the expansion of the plant, which already employs 800 workers who produce Ford's Econoline full-sized van.
The minivan will be produced by members of the United Auto Workers union - a victory for the UAW, which has tried unsuccessfully to organize Nissan's Symrna, Tenn., car and truck plant.
"We have a great team at Ohio Truck. They are dedicated to building quality products, and I'm confident that that dedication will manifest itself when they and the 1,300 new employees begin to produce this vehicle," Ford vice chairman Harold Poling said.
The Ford-Nissan deal is the fourth joint venture in the United States. The first linked General Motors Corp. and Toyota Motor Co., who build cars together in Fremont, Calif. Last year Ford's Japanese partner Mazda Motor Co. began building cars for itself and Ford in Flat Rock, Mich., and a venture between Chrysler Corp. and its Japanese partner Mitsubishi Motor Co., have started producing autos through Diamond-Star Motors Corp. in Bloomington, Ill.
Under the joint venture, Nissan will engineer and design the minivan, of which Ford expects to build 130,000 per year. Production will be split by the two automakers, with Ford receiving a slightly larger share. Both will sell the van through dealers in the United States. Poling said Ford does not plan to export the minivan.
The Ford executive said the minivan project helps address Ford's capacity problem. The automaker is running its plants at full steam and does not have room to add vehicles such as the minivan.
"We couldn't have done this project without them," said Poling.
Ford already produces a minivan, the Aerostar, but it is far outsold by the Dodge Caravan and Plymouth Voyager minivans sold by Chrysler Corp. The minivan has been one of the fastest growing segments of the car market in the 1980s. Production of minivans has gone from 220,000 in 1984 to 740,000 this year.