Focus on Michigan plant will now be on autonomous vehicles

Ford has made an about-face on its plan to produce an electric crossover in its facility in Flat Rock, Michigan. Instead of building in its home state, the American automaker will now produce the model in its production plant in Cuautitlan, Mexico. The 2020 timetable for the production of the crossover still stands; it’s just going to happen outside of the U.S. now. Somewhere, wherever he is U.S. President Donald Trump is not a happy camper.

2011 Ford Evos Concept High Resolution Exterior
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Ford’s decision is part of a bigger plan that involves making additional investments on autonomous vehicles in Michigan

To be fair, Ford’s decision to move the production of the unnamed electric crossover has nothing to do with the president. It’s part of a bigger plan that involves making additional investments on autonomous vehicles in Michigan. According to the company, moving the production of the electric crossover to Mexico allows it to develop the car and bring it to “global customers in a more effective way to support our overreaching business goals.” Basically, the Blue Oval wants to use its Michigan facilities to develop autonomous vehicles. The company said as much when it said that it wants to turn the facility in Flat Rock into an “AV center of excellence. Doing that means moving car projects to other facilities that can accommodate them. It certainly doesn’t hurt that lower labor costs in Mexico would save Ford money in developing what a low-margin EV crossover.

Now that its facility in Michigan is being prepared to become the hub of its autonomous vehicle projects, Ford also plans to invest an extra $200 million to the plant. That’s on top of adding another 150 jobs to fill out the ranks. The company didn’t specify what kind of autonomous vehicle it plans to build in the facility, but it will be a commercial-grade hybrid model that will be likely be used for commercial purposes, including ride-sharing and package delivery.

2011 Ford Evos Concept High Resolution Exterior
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Now that its facility in Michigan is being prepared to become the hub of its autonomous vehicle projects, Ford also plans to invest an extra $200 million to the plant

It’s not surprising that Ford is making this move. There’s already a perception in the industry that it’s fallen behind General Motors in its development of autonomous vehicles. The General has already said that it’s looking to launch its self-driving cars in 2019. That’s two years ahead of where Ford thinks it can launch its own autonomous model.

Ford clearly needs some catching up to do. The company now hopes that by streamlining all its autonomous vehicle activities in one place, it can do just that. Call what you will, but this sounds like nothing more than a business decision.

References

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