Ford Motor Co. launched production in mid-June of a 3-valve V-8 that has its first applications in Australia, Ward's has learned.

The new version of Ford's venerable modular V-8 family will be built on a medium-volume line (about 325,000 units) installed recently at Essex Engine in Windsor, Ont., Canada.

Kevin Bennett, Ford director-manufacturing and engineering, says the line replicates benchmark manufacturing processes used elsewhere, without specifying where. The new line is part of a 780,000-sq.-ft. (70,200-sq.-m) expansion that includes improvements to the auto maker's nearby Windsor Engine Plant.

The Barra, a new sedan built on Ford of Australia's Falcon platform, will benefit from the first batch of 3-valve engines, which feature displacements of either 4.6L or 5.4L. The Barra is scheduled to debut in October, followed by a truck application of the engine.

Ford declines comment on its 3-valve program — for Barra or any other vehicle, including the next-generation F-Series due next year. Bennett does say Windsor will build old and new engines simultaneously for some time, as vehicle lines await their turn to switch to upgraded engines. Ford touted its 3-valve program last year as a key technology for improving SUV performance and fuel economy.

Startup of the medium-volume line means Windsor Engine's low-volume line in a portion of the facility known as “the Annex” will be mothballed. But total employment levels at Windsor and Essex — both recent Shingo Prize winners — are at breakeven.

Meanwhile, a Ford source tells Ward's that a new V-6 — codenamed Cyclone — remains under development.

In addition, the auto maker reveals its global I-4 program will swallow eight other engine architectures during its life cycle. The I-4 small engine family will be built in four plants on three continents, with a production goal of 1.5 million units annually — or 20% of Ford's engine production worldwide by mid-decade.

The I-4 launched initially in late 2000 in Chihuahua, Mexico; followed by Dearborn Engine in early 2001; and then Hiroshima, Japan, to power the Mazda6. The final plant, Valencia, Spain, is being retooled to start production in November. Each identical plant has a mandate to supply its local market. Chihuahua no longer will supply engines for Focuses built in Europe once Ford begins to make its new I-4 next year in Valencia.