Ford Motor (NYSE:F)
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By Mike Colias
Ford Motor Co. will invest nearly $1.5 billion in two Michigan assembly plants, creating about 3,000 factory jobs in a politically pivotal state.
Ford said Tuesday that it will overhaul a plant in Wayne, Mich., just west of Detroit, to build a new Bronco sport-utility vehicle, starting in late 2020, as well as continue production of the Ranger pickup truck. Those plans will add about 2,700 employees, the company said.
Part of the money also will be spent on retooling a factory in Dearborn, Mich., Ford's hometown, to build electrified versions of its top-selling F-150 pickup truck, the company's profit engine. The auto maker said it also will begin a battery-assembly operation at the factory, which will add about 300 jobs.
Ford last month said it would spend about $6 billion in the U.S. and add or retain 8,500 jobs as part of a new four-year labor contract with the United Auto Workers. The investment and jobs disclosed Tuesday are included in those totals, a Ford spokesman said.
Ford's plans for the two Michigan plants reflect broad trends playing out in the car business. Until last year, the Wayne plant produced small cars, including the Ford Focus, before the company phased out those vehicles to make way for bigger vehicles that generate much higher profit margins. Ford and rivals General Motors Co. and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles have pared most passenger cars from their U.S. showrooms to focus on trucks and SUVs.
Meanwhile, auto makers are steering significant investment toward electric vehicles, coaxed by tougher regulations in overseas markets as well as the emergence of Tesla Inc. and other electric-vehicle startups. Ford plans to introduce a hybrid-electric F-150 next year, and its first fully electric version of the truck is planned within a few years.
President Trump has pressured Detroit's auto makers during his tenure to create U.S. factory jobs by building more vehicles domestically, with mixed success.
GM last year drew the president's ire when it disclosed plans to close factories in Ohio and Michigan, for example. Even before he won the election in 2016, Mr. Trump criticized Ford for plans to build a car factory in Mexico, which the company later reversed, citing changing market conditions as well as the desire to invest more in the U.S.
But over the past year, Detroit auto makers have outlined plans to add thousands of U.S. jobs, including in Ford's announcement Tuesday.
Fiat Chrysler in February said it would spent about $4.5 billion on a new production in Michigan, including a new Jeep factory in Detroit, creating more than 6,000 jobs. GM recently reversed plans to shutter one of the plants slated for closure, a Detroit assembly plant, where it now plans to spend about $3 billion to make electric trucks and other vehicles, and it is investing more than $1 billion on a new battery-cell factory in Ohio, to be jointly operated with Korea's LG Chem.
Last year, Ford idled the Wayne plant and laid off roughly 2,000 workers for several months as it overhauled the facility to build the Ranger, which Ford introduced in January after having phased out the truck from its U.S. lineup. The company removed the Focus and C-Max small cars to make way for the Ranger.
"We are investing aggressively in building on our strengths today, including trucks and SUVs, while at the same time expanding our leadership into electric and autonomous vehicles," said Joe Hinrichs, president of Ford's automotive operations.
Ford said it also will use the Wayne plant to make systems and interiors for autonomous vehicles, starting in 2021. Ford has said it would introduce an autonomous-vehicle service sometime that year.
(END) Dow Jones Newswires
December 17, 2019 15:03 ET (20:03 GMT)
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