Ford to spend $900M on EV, autonomous vehicle production

Ford employees applaud at an event that celebrates the opening of the new U.S. production line where the 2013 Ford Fusion midsize sedan will be made at the Flat Rock Assembly Plant

Tied to the company's $11.1 billion investment in global electric vehicles, Ford is expanding its BEV manufacturing footprint to its Flat Rock Assembly plant in southeast MI.

No further details were offered but the company said these vehicles will follow the Mustang-inspired all-electric performance SUV coming in 2020 from the Cuautitlan, Mexico, plant.

Previously the automaker said that it would build a hybrid autonomous vehicle, as well as an electric vehicle, at Flat Rock.

Ford plans to spend about US$900 million and hire about 900 workers to build electric and self-driving vehicles in MI, while moving production of a small commercial van to Mexico from Europe.

"It's a better plan for how we allocate capital in a more efficient way", Joe Hinrichs, Ford's president of global operations, told Automotive News. It also helps the company improve the profitability of its North American Transit Connect lineup, which is part of Ford's industry-leading lineup of commercial vehicles and vans. On Wednesday, the company announced that plant investment includes funding to build the next-generation Mustang that is part of a $900 million investment in Ford's operations in southeastern MI.

"Especially following January's announcement to cut a shift at Flat Rock Assembly, the news that this plant will be the primary center for battery electric vehicle production in the country is a huge step in the right direction", Camilleri said.

Ford is reiterating some previous financial and employment commitments, while changing gears for the third time on building electric vehicles at an underutilized factory south of Detroit.

MI auto workers will not build Ford's all-electric SUV as former CEO Mark Fields promised in 2017. Workers will take standard production hybrid vehicles and install "unique self-driving technology and unique interiors", suggesting the cars will serve a Ford-owned commercial fleet rather than shipping to the general public.

Ford on Wednesday announced a shakeup in production plans for future electric and self-driving cars. Ford said production would begin in 2023. Hinrichs said he doesn't expect the move to have any impact on a U.S. Customs case in which Ford has been accused of "tariff engineering".

Ford did not say what it plans to do with the Lincoln Continental, which is also built at the Flat Rock plant.

Hinrichs said Ford had informed US and MI government officials about the investments, but he declined to directly address Trump's recent criticisms of GM. The automaker did not disclose a location or jobs estimate for its new autonomous vehicle center. They also are being pushed by electric carmakers like Tesla.



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