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Ford said Tuesday it is boosting production of its Expedition and Lincoln Navigator sport utility vehicles and will be adding 550 new jobs at its Kentucky truck plant where it assembles the vehicles.
The automaker will also transfer roughly 500 workers from its nearby Louisville assembly plant to help handle the 20 percent increase in production, which is expected to begin in July.
The move indicates strong demand for the SUVs, which are based on the same platform and share many of the same features and parts.
Expedition sales rose 35 percent and gained 5.6 percentage points in market share in its segment last year. Customers paid an average of $62,700 for the SUV, about $11,700 more than the prior year. Sales of the Navigator, the more premium version of the two vehicles climbed 70 percent year over year to 17,839 units sold last year — it's best year since 2007.
The move also comes as Ford mulls cutbacks in its workforce elsewhere, particularly among salaried workers in the U.S. and different roles abroad, particularly in Europe. The automaker said last week it plans to cut about 5,000 jobs in Germany and an unspecified number in the United Kingdom. It also plans an unspecified number of cuts to its salaried U.S. workforce later this year. Ford said in 2018 it is undertaking an $11 billion plan to restructure its business and improve performance.
Shares of the second largest U.S. automaker have fallen 23 percent in the last 12 months, though they have risen more than 12 percent since the beginning of 2019, closing at $8.57 a share Monday. Its stock was up more than 2.5 percent in Tuesday's premarket.
In recent years, automakers have scrambled to keep pace with an ever intensifying shift away from more traditional passenger vehicles, such as sedans and compact cars, toward SUVs, pickup trucks and crossovers. Ford's cross-town rival General Motors has recently made headlines for its plans to idle sedan-heavy factories and cut jobs in the U.S.