Ford Pays $550 M to Retool Plant for Electric Cars

Ford Motor Company is investing $550 million to transform its Michigan Assembly Plant into a lean, green, and flexible manufacturing complex that will build Ford's next-generation Focus global small car along with a new battery-electric version of the Focus for the North American market.

The plant, formerly the production site for Ford Expedition and Lincoln Navigators SUVs, is one of three North American light truck plants Ford is retooling to build fuel-efficient global small cars in the coming years. The new Focus will begin rolling off the line next year and the battery-electric version of the Focus—Ford's first all-electric passenger car—debuts in 2011.

As part of the retooling, Ford will consolidate its operations from Wayne Assembly Plant. When production launches in 2010, approximately 3,200 employees will be building the new Focus at Michigan Assembly Plant. At the plant, Ford and United Auto Workers are developing modern new operating practices to ensure high quality and even greater efficiency.

"The transformation of Michigan Assembly Plant embodies the larger transformation under way at Ford," said Ford President and Chief Executive Officer Alan Mulally. "This is about investing in modern, efficient and flexible American manufacturing. It is about fuel economy and the electrification of vehicles. It is about leveraging our expertise and vehicle platforms around the world and partnering with the UAW to deliver best-in-class global small cars. It is about skilled and motivated teams working together in new ways to create the future of automobile manufacturing in the United States."

The reinvention of Michigan Assembly, once one of the world's most profitable auto plants during the SUV boom of the late 1990s, is rooted in the fundamental strategic shift by Ford to leverage its global assets to bring six world-class small cars to the American market by the end of 2012. To produce the vehicles, Ford is converting three truck and SUV plants to car plants—Michigan Assembly, Cuautitlan Assembly in Mexico, which begins building the new Fiesta subcompact early next year; and Louisville (Ky.) Assembly, which will be converted to produce small vehicles from Ford's global Focus platform beginning in 2011.

The new Focus is being developed in Europe—where Ford is a leader in small cars—off a new global C-car platform. Over time, the new platform will be the basis for more than 2 million units annually around the world, including Focus and other derivatives, allowing Ford to leverage economies of scale to improve investment efficiency.

The zero-emission Focus battery-electric vehicle, which is being developed in partnership with Magna International, features a high-voltage electric motor powered by a high-capacity lithium ion battery pack and charged by plugging in to a 110-volt or 220-volt outlet.

In addition to the Focus battery electric vehicle, Ford is collaborating with Smith Electric to sell a Transit Connect battery electric commercial vehicle for North America in 2010. Ford's product plans also include a next-generation hybrid vehicle in 2012 and a plug-in hybrid vehicle in 2012.

The state of Michigan, Wayne County, and the city of Wayne contributed more than $160 million in tax credits and grants to support Ford's expansion opportunities. Key elements include:

  • Tax incentives based on job retention at the site;
  • A brownfield tax incentive for economic rehabilitation of the site;
  • Tax incentives to support integration of advanced batteries into new product development programs; and
  • Local property tax incentives for new investments at the site.

In a flexible body shop, at least 80 percent of the robotic equipment can be programmed to weld various sized vehicles. This "non-product specific" equipment gives the body shop its flexibility and provides more efficient use of the facility.

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