In the wake of President-elect Trump’s November victory, Ford Motor Company has canceled plans for a new Mexican assembly plant and will instead invest $700 million in its Flat Rock, Michigan, factory to build a 300-plus mile small electric sport/utility by 2020, a hybrid-powered fully autonomous vehicle by 2021, and a hybrid Mustang in 2020, CEO Mark Fields announced Tuesday morning.
Ford also plans a hybrid F-150 pickup truck, assembled upriver from Flat Rock at the historic River Rouge plant, plus hybrid-powered versions of its Explorer-based Police Interceptor Utility and Taurus-based Police Interceptor Sedan, Fields said. It will offer a plug-in hybrid-powered Ford Transit Connect in Europe beginning in 2019 and test a fleet of 20 hybrid Connect taxis in major U.S. cities, and is testing wireless recharging technology in the U.S. and Europe. Ford is working with other automakers to establish an ultra-fast charging network in Europe, with an initial target of about 400 sites.
Field’s announcement follows a series of Tweets from the President-elect regarding Ford’s plans to shift Focus production from its Michigan Assembly plant to Mexico. Trump has taken credit on Twitter for convincing Ford not to shift Lincoln MKC production from the Ford Escape assembly plant in Louisville, Kentucky. A few hours before Ford’s announcement at the Flat Rock assembly plant, Trump warned General Motors that it faced tariffs on the Chevrolet Cruze if it continued to import the compacts from Mexico (Chevy builds just the low-volume Cruze hatchback there, and the Cruze sedan in Lordstown, Ohio).
Fields announced plans to cancel Ford’s $1.6-billion San Luis Potosi, Mexico assembly plant and will instead invest $700 million in Flat Rock, though it still plans to move Focus production to Hermosillo, Mexico. The Michigan Assembly plant will build more profitable Ford Rangers and Broncos (products Ford has not officially confirmed) instead.
The investment in Flat Rock will result in 700 additional jobs, Fields said.
Flat Rock assembly first opened to build midsize, front-wheel-drive Fords and Mazdas, and now builds the rear-wheel-drive Mustang and front-wheel-drive Lincoln Continental.
The new hybrid Ford Mustang, which Fields said will be available in 2020, will have the power of a V-8 Mustang, but more torque. The new crop of Ford hybrid-electrics all will use turbocharged EcoBoost engines, the company said.
“We could not be more excited about leading electrification, going forward,” Fields said.
Fields first confirmed the fully-electric small Ford SUV due in 2020, last year in a quarterly financial report conference call, and plans for the vehicle was first reported by us in September 2014.
Production of American-brand cars built in Mexico has been an issue President-elect Trump has championed as part of his plans to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).
On Tuesday morning, Trump tweeted, “General Motors is sending Mexican made models of Chevy Cruze to U.S. dealers-tax free across border. Make in U.S.A. or pay big border tax!”
Chevrolet sold about 190,000 Cruze compacts in calendar 2016, most of them the sedans made in Lordstown, Ohio. About 4,500 of them were hatchbacks imported from Mexico (which also exports Chevy Cruze hatchbacks to other markets). The Cruze hatchback was introduced mid-year, so full-year importation from Mexico could reach 10,000, or roughly 5 percent of the Chevy Cruzes sold in the U.S.
In Flat Rock, Fields expressed enthusiasm for positive effects the coming administration may have on the U.S. auto industry.
“Ford is a global automaker, but our home is right here in the United States,” Fields said.