January 3, 2017 — Days prior to the opening of Detroit’s North American International Auto Show, Ford Motor Co.’s President and CEO Mark Fields dropped several bombshells outlining the automaker’s strategy the next three years.
Addressing the media and UAW members at Ford’s Flat Rock, MI assembly plant, Fields announced the company is cancelling plans it announced last spring to build a new $1.6 billion plant in Mexico. Instead, Ford is investing $700 million in the Flat Rock plant while adding 700 new jobs.
Ford will transform the facility into an electric and autonomous vehicle innovation center. The facility will continue building the Mustang and Continental along with three new electric vehicles:
- An all-electric small SUV/crossover that will get 300 miles between charges, due in 2020.
- A V8 Ford Mustang hybrid sports coupe, due in 2020.
- A fully autonomous hybrid vehicle designed for fleet ride-sharing and taxi applications, due in 2021. This vehicle will come without a steering wheel and pedals and will likely be available for limited use in fleet operations.
Fields also provided details of four other vehicles due by 2020 as part of its $4.5 billion investment into building 13 new electric vehicles by 2021:
- A F-150 pickup hybrid that will be built at the Dearborn Truck Plant. (This might be the biggest news of the day — and likely signals Ford’s EcoBoost strategy is paying off).
- A Transit Custom plug-in hybrid for Europe, due in 2019.
- Two new, pursuit-rated hybrid police vehicles.
Although Fields said the change in strategy is not the result of a political deal negotiated with President-Elect Trump, who during the campaign incorrectly blasted Ford for moving jobs to Mexico, he admitted the automaker “sees a more positive U.S. manufacturing business environment under president elect Trump and the pro-growth policies and proposals that he is talking about, so this is a vote of confidence for President-elect Trump and some of the policies that they may be pursuing.”
With demand for small vehicles plummeting, Ford likely no longer needs the capacity an extra plant in Mexico would provide.
Meanwhile, crediting some of President-Elect Trump’s business policies for the move is good business practice and may help Ford in the future to convince him to dial back what to now been strong comments toward’s China trade practices.