Ford plans to swap production of a forthcoming battery-electric crossover to Mexico from a plant in Michigan, with the site near Detroit becoming what the company envisions as an autonomous vehicle "center of excellence." The move will also coincide with an additional $200 million invested in its Flat Rock, Mich., assembly plant and 150 more jobs.
The development was reported by Automotive News, which obtained an internal memo and confirmed the news with a Ford spokesman. The publication also says the new autonomous vehicle, due in 2021, will be a commercial-grade hybrid bearing an all-new nameplate to be used for commercial purposes like ride-hailing and delivering packages.
Ford originally planned to build the crossover EV and an unnamed Level 4 autonomous vehicle in Flat Rock as part of a $700 million investment bringing 700 jobs. The company says it still plans to start production of the EV, which will have a 300-mile range, in summer 2020. But production will move to its assembly plant in Cuautitlán, Mexico, largely to take advantage of lower labor costs for a vehicle that is expected to deliver low margins.
Ford also plans to build a hybrid version of the Mustang at Flat Rock, where it already makes the standard Mustang, one of 13 new electrified vehicles it's planning to build over the next five years. It's also been expanding its presence in Silicon Valley and doubling down on autonomous vehicles, including a partnership to deploy Ford self-driving cars with Lyft.