Ford will build EVs alongside the Mustang
The Mustang is getting some company at Ford’s Flat Rock Assembly Plant in southeast Michigan. As part of $900 million worth of investments, Ford announced it will build electric vehicles in the same factory as the Mustang and add a second labor shift. Additionally, Ford plans to spend $50 million on a new facility in the region to make its autonomous vehicles for commercial use, with the first rolling off the production line in 2021.
The EVs built in Michigan will come after the Mustang-inspired performance SUV arrives in 2020. Ford says that Flat Rock will be the company’s global hub for making battery electric vehicles. The next-generation Mustang will also receive some electrification in the form of a hybrid model, likely coming in 2021.
Ford kept the details of the autonomous vehicle facility to a minimum in its announcement, with no mention of exactly where it will be located or how many it will employ. The company had nothing to add when we asked a spokesperson for details, but the automaker did say in its announcement that the new factory is not going to be set up for mass production.
Joe Hinrichs, Ford’s president, Global Operations, stated in the company’s press release, “As we ramp up AV production, this plan allows us to adjust our investment spending to accommodate the pace of growth of this exciting new technology. This new plan combines our core strength in mass manufacturing with the agility and leanness we’ve shown with our modification centers for specialty manufacturing.”
Hybrid-powered vehicles Ford designated specifically for commercial use will be mostly assembled at Ford’s larger facilities and then shipped to the new AV manufacturing center where they will be upfitted with self-driving technology and “unique interiors.” The mention of commercial-grade is important because these first self-driving Fords will be put into service as shuttles for people and delivery vehicles for goods.
Ford also announced that the next-generation Transit Connect will be built in Mexico starting in 2021. North American assembly should allow Ford to build two-seat commercial versions of the van without the expense and hassle of converting passenger vans after they arrive in port to avoid the “chicken tax” on imported light trucks.