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Posts Tagged ‘Ford Motor Company’

FL-TesttrackI’m talking about Florida and the Big Cypress Swamp.

To be more specific the address is: Harley-Davidson, 5301 34th Ave. S.E., Naples, FL., a 531-acre private test track north of Interstate 75/Alligator Alley.  The facility has a 2.1-mile straight away and a 1.1-mile ride-and-handling loop.

FL-Track-HeloPrior to 2002, the test track was owned and used by Ford Motor Company.  In October 2009, Harley-Davidson announced plans to consolidate its test operations in Florida and Talladega, AL. sites to the Arizona Proving Grounds in Yucca, AZ.  There were approximately 8 employees and as many contract employees at the Florida facility at the time.

Earlier this month, the automaker Chrysler Group LLC announced they purchased the property for $7 million with plans to use the more than six miles of tracks to test a wide range of pre-production vehicles.

FL-Track-BldsHarley-Davidson Motor Co., agreed to lease back a portion of the track to test motorcycles and other specialty vehicles along with 10,200 square feet within two buildings on the property. That lease will last through at least June 30, 2019.

Construction of the track and its associated buildings began in 1985 and ended in 1992.  In 1998 the test track was the subject of a lot of scrutiny when nearby property owners and environmentalist became concerned about expansion that would harm the neighborhood.

Photos courtesy of Google and Collier International.

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Harley-Davidson's new factory in York, Pa.

A new Harley-Davidson motorcycle rolls off the assembly line in York, PA.

You might recall that one of the first moving assembly lines was at Ford Motor Company in 1913.  Until this time automobiles were built one at a time and were quite expensive.  With the Model T, they began experimenting with different production techniques and the conveyor belt system was born.  At its peak a finish Model T came off the assembly line every 10 seconds.

Workers could not stop the line even if parts were wrong.  Workers were not allowed to think on the job.  They were allowed to only do their assigned task and do them ever quicker.  They required almost no skill to perform and were highly repetitive.  Many workers were unfulfilled and became bored and dissatisfied with their jobs.  As a result, absenteeism rose and employee turnover became high.

Fast forward 100+ years and everything has changed, right?.

The “New Factory York” is Harley-Davidson’s largest motorcycle factory.  Once there were 41 buildings on the huge 232 acre plot, but most have been demolished along with 2300 jobs.  The entire manufacturing facility is now housed in one building.  It’s a model of efficiency which H-D plans to “copy-exact” in Menomonee Falls and Tomahawk.  The process is centered on advanced manufacturing techniques that are used at Toyota and Caterpillar that are well known for their quality and efficiencies.

The Milwaukee changes are a com’in… because effective this month adjusted labor contracts went into effect giving the company more flexibility with the workforce.  Similar to the York plant there can be the use of seasonal employees who are not entitled to medical or retirement benefits and receive less pay for the same work done by regular employees.  While still unionized they are paid about $16.80 to $26 per hour versus $30.50 to $38 per hour for regular employees.

But, just like in 1913 not all the workers seem to be infatuated with the changes.  There is a great article written by Rick Barrett at the Journal Sentinel which captures the mixed opinions and whether the transformation has resulted in a better workplace.   We all know that change is messy, but some of the comments had me wondering if some in the workforce would prefer a return to the Model T era.

Photo courtesy of H-D

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2010 Ford F-150 Harley-Davidson Edition

2010 Ford F-150 Harley-Davidson Edition


I’m not talking digital cameras.  It’s about motorcycle enthusiasts who like riding Harley-Davidson motorcycles and are likely to have an affinity toward other like-minded products that carry the lifestyle brand.

There are various elements that effect consumer choice and purchasing behavior which range from culture and social class to budgets.  There has been a lot written on the subject of purchasing behaviors and the work in trying to develop simple models which attempt to explain complex decision processes.  It is the task of marketing to create awareness and then guide a consumer through the subsequent stages of a purchasing decision that if successful ends when you purchase their product.

At least that is the thinking at Harley-Davidson and the Ford Motor Company who have combined marketing forces on the new 2010 Ford F-150 Harley-Davidson Edition.  It may have taken the leather jackets of 13 Harley riders to make one F-150 interior, but it’s quite the stylish co-branded truck and one they hope you’ll favor and purchase.  Emphasizing the co-brand badges and setting new standards in truck luxury they are clearly targeting the “image-conscious” buyer.  The last co-brand (F-350) attempt is HERE.

Over the last 10 years only 74,000 people have plunked down the $$ for a bike-badged truck.  A small manufacturing run by anyone’s measure in the automobile industry yet these “appearance packages” keep coming.  In this competitive world many buyers dismiss all the stats and simply ask the questions; “Is this a truck I want to drive, be seen in and does it reflect my personality?”

If you answer YES, then you’ll be the first to have one of these custom cool hand-made cloisonné badges.

Photo courtesy of Ford.

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Yucca Desert Proving Grounds

Yucca Desert Proving Grounds

During WWII the U.S. Army established numerous airfields in Arizona for training pilots and aircrews of the USAAF fighters and bombers.  Just east of I-40 and about 25 miles south of Kingman, AZ is the Yucca Army Airfield.  In 1946 the property was declared surplus and in 1954 the Ford Motor Company acquired the facility and began using the runways for automobile testing.  Ford eventually built an extensive automotive proving ground and used the airfield known as the Arizona Proving Ground Airport.

In November 2007, Chrysler bought the facility (3,840-acre test site, which has 50 miles of test roads) for $34.9M from Ford Motor Company. Chrysler also made another $10M in upgrades, including a new 70-foot-high test grade along with other new test surfaces. The facility is open 24/7 and the Yucca site is the primary hot weather testing grounds. Chrysler tests about 2,000 vehicles a year at the site.  As a side bar, Toyota’s desert proving grounds is 128 miles away in Wickenburg, AZ and runway information is HERE.

Harley-Davidson recently closed an agreement with Chrysler to use the facility effective July 2009 as their desert proving grounds.  Harley will occupy several buildings and use the banked, high speed, five-mile, three-lane oval track as well as many of the twisted asphalt and checkerboard tile concrete roads.

I don’t know about you, but I can see a day in the future where the Laughlin River Run in coordination with the Route 66 Motor Sports and “Mother Road” Harley dealer in Kingman might include facility tours and/or sport track demo rides.  Let’s hope so!

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