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Monstrous Windsor-made Ford V-8 rolls out this fall

Ford team leader Rino Fanella works on the new, 7.3L V-8 engine at Ford Windsor Engine Plant Annex site Feb. 7, 2019.
Ford team leader Rino Fanella works on the new, 7.3L V-8 engine at Ford Windsor Engine Plant Annex site Feb. 7, 2019. - Nick Brancaccio

Ford’s beastly 7.3 litre V-8 gas engine starts rolling off a Windsor assembly line this fall, giving job security to autoworkers and options to people who want a powerful truck but don’t need diesel.

The union representing autoworkers said it’s encouraging that the engine, which kicks out 430 horsepower, is going into production when other auto and parts plants are cutting shifts or closing down.

“It’s going to secure jobs,” said John Dagnolo, president of Unifor Local 200. “You see what’s happening to our Nemak plant right now. You see what’s happening at the Oshawa assembly plant. The loss of the shift at FCA. We’ve seen a lot things happen around us. But this is a good news story.”

The engine, which will replace the Windsor-made 6.8-litre V-10, will debut in the company’s 2020 Super Duty pickups and commercial vehicles. It will be produced at Ford’s Annex, on the south end of the Windsor Engine Plant property off Seminole Street.

Ford gave the public a first look at the new engine in February while it was still going through test production runs. It’s part of a $613-million investment Ford commitment to during 2016 contract negotiations with Unifor.

There’s really not a change to employment

“We were losing the 6.8 engine and we knew it was going away,” said Dagnolo. “That’s what we did in the last set of bargaining was negotiate that 7.3 litre.”

He said about 400 people will be working at the plant, with two production shifts and three machining shifts. Production begins in October, said Dagnolo.

Ford communications manager Matt Drennan-Scace said he couldn’t confirm the number of people who will be working on the new engine.

But he said a total of about 1,700 people will be working between that facility and the Essex Engine Plant when everything shakes out.

“There’s really not a change to employment,” said Drennan-Scace. “With all the moves, with the shift reduction and the ramp up of the 7.3 it would be stable employment.”

He said people affected by the previously announced reduction of the third shift at Essex Engine Plant will transfer over to the Annex.

People will also transfer over from Windsor Engine Plant’s main building after the line producing the 6.8-litre engine winds down.

“It’s a work shift between the two lines on the Windsor Engine Plant site,” said Drennan-Scace. “They’re moving from the main building to the Annex building.”

Ford has said the 7.3-litre engine should appeal to companies or individuals who don’t want or need the higher payload and towing capability of the pricier 6.7-litre diesel.

“It offers a third engine for Super Duty customers to consider depending on their needs,” said Drennan-Scace. “Whether they’re using them on the job site or they just need to tow more than the average person, this gives them another option to work with.”

Auto analyst Dennis DesRosiers said it’s possible the trucks will have a wider appeal with gasoline engines, but questioned how big of a factor it will really be.

“It’s probably true,” said DesRosiers, founder of DesRosiers Automotive Consultants Inc. “Diesel is pretty popular when you get up to that engine size. It’s going to be relatively low volume given the size. It goes up against everything happening on climate change. Once you get up into that size of products, a lot of vehicles are diesel because they have more torque and better fuel efficiency.”

Regardless of who the engine appeals to or how many people it keeps employed, he said the new production is a blessing for Windsor.

“These plants hire one worker, it’s good for Windsor,” said DesRosiers. “These are good paying jobs. Whatever the number is, if it’s 400, it’s 400 good-paying jobs.”

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