Ford to build electric vehicles in Mexico, revamp Flat Rock plant for self-driving cars - Detroit Free Press

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Dozens of companies in California are reportedly now test self-driving cars, with Samsung being the latest corporation to get permission from the state’s Department of Motor Vehicles. Wochit

Clarification: This version of the story clarifies Ford’s plan for its electric car production in Mexico.

Ford Motor Co. is shifting production of an all-electric vehicle to Mexico, while saying it will create 850 new jobs by continuing production in Flat Rock, Mich., of the Mustang, Lincoln Continental and an autonomous car it wants to sell to delivery fleets beginning in 2021.

Last March, the Dearborn-based automaker announced plans to not build a new plant in Mexico, and adding both the electric vehicle and the hybrid autonomous vehicle in Flat Rock. That plan, which Ford said would create 700 jobs, was formulated after President Trump threatened to withdraw the U.S. from the North American Free Trade Agreement and ridiculed automakers for making any vehicles in Mexico.

The UAW told the Free Press on Thursday that the latest decision by Ford to produce the EVs in Mexico will not result in fewer jobs at home because the union already negotiated future job commitments.

“During the 2015 negotiations with Ford, we secured significant product investment for our members at the Flat Rock assembly plant and other manufacturing facilities in the U.S.,” said UAW Vice President Jimmy Settles. “Yesterday’s announcement by Ford to expand production of autonomous vehicles at Flat Rock, and move a low-volume electric SUV to Mexico does not affect our jobs or economic investment commitments.”

The labor union represents 59,000 Ford workers.

“We are confident the move to expand autonomous production at Flat Rock will provide additional job security for our current members and create additional job opportunities for those in the surrounding communities,” Settles said. “This move also gives us a more secure footing today and going forward with autonomous vehicle manufacturing in UAW represented facilities.”

While the UAW is never thrilled with manufacturing in Mexico, but automakers, regardless of whether they’re based in the U.S., Japan, South Korea, or Germany, are producing more small passenger cars in Mexico or other low-cost countries.

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles stopped building its mid-size Chrysler 200 and Dodge Dart altogether.

The exception is General Motors, which is assembling its all-electric Chevrolet Bolt, including self-driving units, at its Orion Township plant in Oakland County and splits production of the Chevrolet Cruze compact between Mexico and Lordstown, Ohio.

Ford has dropped a flurry of news in recent weeks in an effort to change the perception within the industry that it is trailing General Motors and Google’s Waymo spinoff in the race to introduce a reliable and safe autonomous vehicle for ride-sharing purposes.

Jim Farley, president of global markets for Ford, was quoted as saying the decision shows the start of “the foundation of Ford’s bet on AV’s (autonomous-drive vehicles). We’re very excited about what we are doing.”

Farley told the Wall Street Journal that the move will make Flat Rock the “center of excellence” for future driverless vehicles.

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Early this year, in response to criticism from President Donald Trump, Ford doubled down its commitment to keep jobs in Michigan.

Some observers wondered why the Mexico announcement wasn’t made in October, when Ford CEO Jim Hackett met with investors.

“This is all a bit strange,” said Dave Sullivan, a product analysis manager at AutoPacific Inc. “Was the original Flat Rock announcement merely lip service to the president?

“Ford’s plans seem to be a bit scattered these days,” he said. “It wasn’t too long ago Ford canceled plans to build a plant in Mexico. This is like plant musical chairs. I mean, they broke ground in Mexico and had to pay money to get out of contracts. So now we’re back to making cars in Mexico? It’s just a bit disconcerting from the outside looking in to see how many planned and unplanned announcements there are coming out of Ford this week. Seems a bit chaotic there.”

News of the shift in plans — which includes an additional $200 million investment in Flat Rock — was first reported by the Wall Street Journal while Ford officials toured China. The vehicle to be built in Michigan is said to be an entirely new model for Ford, a hybrid-electric autonomous vehicle.

Contact Phoebe Wall Howard: 313-222-6512 or Follow her on Twitter: @phoebesaid



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