Ford to invest $850M in Ranger, Bronco plant; $350M in other Michigan plants

Ford to invest $850M in Ranger, Bronco plant; $350M in other Michigan plants

Investments fulfill promises to bring new products to Wayne, Michigan, plant to replace outgoing Focus.

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Cleveland, Ohio – Ford put a price tag Tuesday on its previously announced plans to return the Ranger small pickup and Bronco small SUV to production in Michigan – $850 million. In January at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit, Michigan, the automaker announced plans to bring the pickup and SUV back to the U.S. market by the end of 2018 for the Ranger and 2020 for the Bronco.

The massive investment to retool Ford’s Michigan Assembly Plant in Wayne, Michigan, was a condition of Ford’s 2015 labor contract with the United Auto Workers.

“At Ford, we are investing aggressively in building on our strengths today – including trucks, vans, commercial vehicles, performance vehicles, and SUVs – while at the same time growing our leadership in electrification, autonomy and mobility services,” said Joe Hinrichs, Ford president, The Americas. “As America’s top producer of automobiles, we are proud to be going even further in our commitment to invest in manufacturing here at home.”

Ford exited the compact pickup market in 2011, fearing that sales of the inexpensive truck were cannibalizing sales of its more profitable F-150, full-sized pickup. Since then, General Motors has proven that there’s still a strong market for smaller trucks with the successes of its Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon small pickups.

With car sales falling steadily, retooling Michigan Assembly for trucks will keep that plant viable. Ford now makes the Focus compact car there, but the automaker plans to move Focus production to Mexico. Initially, Ford officials had planned to build a new plant in Mexico for cars, but falling demand will allow the company to consolidate Focus and Fusion mid-sized car sales into one Mexican plant.

In addition to the jobs at Michigan Assembly, Ford plans to invest $150 million to expand engine capacity for the trucks at its Romeo Engine Plant in Romeo, Michigan. The company will spend another $200 million for an advanced data center, the second of two new data centers Ford is building in Michigan, as the company expects its data usage to increase 1,000%.

The second data center will be at Ford’s Flat Rock Assembly Plant south of Detroit, where the company is investing $700 million and adding 700 direct new jobs – announced in January – to produce electrified and autonomous vehicles.

“UAW-Ford is proud of the total investments in three of our Southeast Michigan assembly and engine plants, which will lead to stronger job security for our members and continued support for the surrounding communities,” said UAW-Ford Vice President Jimmy Settles. “Thanks to collective bargaining, the hard-working men and women at each of these locations will now reap the full fruits of their labor. We look forward to celebrating more product investment and job growth at each of our UAW represented facilities in the months and years to come.”

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 DesignHe has written about the automotive industry for more than 17 years at The Plain Dealer in Cleveland, Ohio; The Courier-Journal in Louisville, Kentucky; and The Clarion-Ledger in Jackson, Mississippi.

rschoenberger@gie.net