LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – Ford Motor Co. has begun shifting about 550 workers between its Louisville plants as the Detroit-based automaker prepares to boost production of its large SUVs, the Ford Expedition and Lincoln Navigator.

As WDRB first reported in November, Ford is transferring workers from Louisville Assembly Plant, where the smaller Escape SUV is made, to Kentucky Truck Plant, which makes Super Duty trucks as well as the large SUVs.

Ford employs nearly 13,000 hourly workers between the two plants.

A little more than two dozen workers have switched plants, with the balance to come over gradually through July, Kentucky Truck Plant manager Andrew Tapp said Tuesday. He said no one at either plant lost a job as result of the shift.

Ford plans to boost production of the Navigator and Expedition by 20 percent in 2019.

“We really saw a need to increase our capacity to meet this demand,” for the large SUVs, Tapp said.

Expedition sales rose 5.4 percent in 2018, while Navigator sales rose nearly 70 percent, according to company statistics. Both are smaller-volume products for Ford compared to bigger sellers like the Escape and F-Series trucks.

The Expedition starts at about $52,000 while the Navigator starts at about $73,000.

Meanwhile Louisville Assembly doesn’t need a third shift as Ford sells fewer Escape SUVs in anticipation of a revamped model in 2020.

Escape sales fell nearly 12 percent in 2018.

The additional 550 workers will boost Kentucky Truck’s hourly employment to about 8,650. The plant also has about 300 white-collar workers who aren’t unionized.

Before the shift, Louisville Assembly employed about 4,730, including about 4,530 hourly employees, a Ford spokeswoman said last November.

Reach reporter Chris Otts at 502-585-0822, cotts@wdrb.com, on Twitter or on Facebook. Copyright 2019 WDRB News. All rights reserved.

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Chris Otts reports for WDRB.com about business and economic topics, higher education and local / state government. He joined WDRB News in 2013 after seven years with The Courier-Journal. Got a tip? Chris is at 502-585-0822 and cotts@wdrb.com.