The 2011 Ford Explorer was named the North American Truck of the Year at the North American International Auto Show. The Explorer received the most votes among 49 automotive journalists from the U.S. and Canada attending the show. The Dodge Durango, Ford Explorer, and Jeep Grand Cherokee were the three finalists for the Truck of the Year award. Based on its scoring system, the Explorer won with 253 points while the Jeep received 138 points and the Durango 99. The Chevrolet Volt won the Car of the Year award.
The award is designed to recognize the most outstanding new truck of the year. All three of these models are significantly revised for 2011. Voting is based on factors such as design, handling, innovation, driver satisfaction, safety, and value for the dollar. SUVs are included in the truck category.
Ford has been on a role. It has won the North American International Auto Show Truck of the Year award the past three years. Ford has reported earnings of $6.4 billion during the first three quarters of 2010. Its stock price was up more than 50% in 2010.
Ford has announced plans to add more than 7,000 U.S. employees by 2012. At least 1,800 of the positions will be at Ford’s Louisville, Kentucky assembly plant, which is producing the new Ford Escape. While many of the new workers will be involved in manufacturing assembly, Ford is also hiring a range of engineers for development of hybrid and electric models. In addition to the Detroit area, Ford has engineering centers in cities including Boston, Chicago, Cincinnati, San Jose, California, and Raleigh, North Carolina.
Ford has made significant structural changes over the past decade. Ten years ago, it employed more than 100,000 employees at its U.S. assembly plants. Even after the announced additions by 2012, Ford will have less than 50,000 U.S. assembly plant workers. Ford has increasingly shifted labor to cheaper production locations such as Mexico, where the average worker makes less than 10% of a U.S. employee. Also, under a 2007 contract with the United Auto Workers, most new Ford assembly workers make around $14, which means significant savings for the company. Prior to the agreement, new assembly workers made more than $20 per hour and received more benefits.
Awards are important for automakers as they are often used in marketing models. Ford has reported strong sales of the 2011 Explorer since making its debut in dealer showrooms last month.