Cleveland, Ohio – Following through on promises made in early 2017, Ford Motor Co. announced plans to put $850 million into its Flat Rock Assembly Plant southwest of Detroit. The Mustang plant will add a second shift for future autonomous and electric cars.
The plant will become the production home to vehicles from the company’s next-generation battery electric flexible architecture. These vehicles will follow the all-electric performance SUV coming in 2020 from Ford’s Cuautitlan, Mexico, plant.
“We’ve taken a fresh look at the growth rates of electrified vehicles and know we need to protect additional production capacity given our accelerated plans for fully electric vehicles,” said Joe Hinrichs, Ford’s president, Global Operations.
Ford announced plants in 2017 to make Flat Rock its testbed for autonomous and electric vehicle manufacturing. That announcement focused on boosting U.S. production while cancelling plans to build a massive new plant for the Focus in Mexico, drawing praise from not-yet-inaugurated President Donald Trump.
While the company encouraged the growth-in-Michigan, cutbacks in Mexico storyline at the time, the big driver for the cancellation of the plant there was the collapse of small-car sales. Ford eventually announced plans to abandon most of its car lineup to focus on SUVs and crossovers.
The $850 million investment announced this week, along with $50 million on other spending, also had some messaging targeted at the president. Ford officials said the company will stop importing the Transit Connect small van from Turkey in 2021 and begin building it in Mexico – something they credit to Trump’s NAFTA-replacing United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA).
The Transit Connect is embroiled in a customs lawsuit because Ford imports the van as a passenger van, then removes the seats once it’s in this country to make it a cargo van. That adjustment allows the van to avoid a 25% tariff on imported commercial vehicles knows as the Chicken Tax.
The investments in Flat Rock include the equipment for the next generation of the Mustang and tools for electric and autonomous vehicles (AVs). The automaker plans to launch its first AV in 2021.
“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,” Hinrichs said. “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.”
About the author: Robert Schoenberger is the editor of Today's Motor Vehicles and a contributor to Today's Medical Developments and Aerospace Manufacturing and Design. He has written about the automotive industry for more than 18 years at The Plain Dealer in Cleveland, Ohio; The Courier-Journal in Louisville, Kentucky; and The Clarion-Ledger in Jackson, Mississippi.