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The Ford River Rouge Complex

Ford in Australia is, unfortunately, dying.  It has received a mortal wound and is going through the process of twitching and groaning before ultimately giving up the ghost, more’s the pity.  However, the same can’t be said of Ford in other parts of the world.  So to cheer all my fellow Ford fans up, here’s a bit of info about one of the oldest and possibly largest Ford factories: the Ford River Rouge Complex in Detroit, founded in 1917, which started manufacturing Model Ts since the late 1920s and still at work churning out Fords today.

The Ford River Rouge Complex, often just known as “The Rouge”, has been called one of the wonders of the industrial world and “a city without residents”.  It’s got its own transport system – right from the beginning, it had 100 miles of railroad track and its own internal bus system as well as its own electricity generators.  It was a completely self-sufficient factory: raw materials came in at one end and finished cars came out of the other.  Even the plastic parts originally came from soybean derived oils grown in Ford-owned fields and the rubber came from a Ford-owned plantation in Brazil.  Today, it’s not quite as self-sufficient or as big, but it’s still pretty impressive. It covers 600 acres and employs over 6000 people.

Originally, the factory buildings were designed to be reasonably pleasant to work in, with lots of glass all over the show so that it felt light and spacious for the workers inside.  Today, it’s still doing the architectural design for living thing, with the largest “living roof” in the world to tackle stormwater, and has lots of green space all around the place as well as other eco-friendly features to minimise pollution.

river rouge

However, all has not been rosy for the Rouge over the years and this massive complex did nearly close its doors in the early 1990s when they decided to stop making the Mustang there.  Sure, they were still churning out Dearborn trucks from The Rouge (and still do), but there were howls of protest.  People wanted to save the Mustang and keep the Rouge in production.  Happily, both the Mustang and the Rouge stayed – although the Mustangs are being made elsewhere.  The Rouge is still being redeveloped, with the Henry Ford Museum being closely linked with the Rouge and sharing the site, as well as running tours through the plant.  (Hmmm…  Ford Australia, take note.)  They’re still in the redevelopment process, so it will be interesting to see what happens.

One of the few actual Ford vehicles made at this heritage factory is the Ford F150. We don’t get this over here, as the Powers That Be at Ford have said that the Aussie-made Ford Ranger does the job for this part of the world and they won’t be making the F150 with right-hand-drive.  The F150 is, however, one of the best-selling vehicles in the USA (and has been for over 30 years) and is a tough, stylish ute (or “pickup truck”, as our American friends call it).  With any luck – and I’m guessing here – this will change, given that (a) Ford Australia is shutting its doors, (b) Ford USA is coming out with a new F150 soon and (c) we like our utes over here.  Fingers crossed, everybody.

ford F150