The home of the Ford Mustang will eventually become home to vehicles built atop the automaker’s next-generation electric architecture, the company announced Wednesday. Ford’s plan comes with $900 million in previously announced funding, the vast majority of which is earmarked for the expansion of Michigan’s Flat Rock assembly plant. The rest of the cash goes towards preparations for the next-generation Mustang, which keeps Flat Rock as its home.
Contrary to previous claims, autonomous vehicles will not be among Flat Rock’s future inhabitants, and the same goes for Ford’s upcoming “Mustang inspired” EV crossover.
Once the plant completes its expansion and takes on a second shift, EV models (plural, take note) will pour forth, but not imminently. Ford targets the start of Flat Rock EV production for 2023.
Rather than Flat Rock, autonomous vehicle production will instead take place at “a new AV manufacturing center in southeast Michigan,” Ford stated, where workers will outfit “purpose-built, commercial-grade hybrid vehicles with self-driving technology and unique interiors.” AV production should commence at the unnamed locale in 2021.
Before any of that happens, of course, Ford’s electric performance crossover will roll out of Cuautitlan, Mexico in 2020, giving Blue Oval loyalists a taste of the electromobility Ford CEO Jim Hackett is so keen on.
“We’ve taken a fresh look at the growth rates of electrified vehicles and know we need to protect additional production capacity given our accelerated plans for fully electric vehicles,” said Joe Hinrichs, Ford’s president of global operations, in a statement.
Some 900 additional jobs are expected to be created by the expansion. Ford also builds the Lincoln Continental at Flat Rock, and today’s announcement contained no mention of the vehicle, further pushing its future into doubt. With its platform mate, the Ford Fusion, kicking the dust by (or in) 2021, we continue to believe the big Lincoln sedan will bow out with it.
While electric vehicle sales rose sharply in the U.S. last year, mainly due to increased production of the Tesla Model 3, the vehicle type remains a tiny sliver of the country’s total sales volume — just over 1 percent. Numerous factors, including primitive public infrastructure, a culture rooted in go-anywhere ethos, and a tax credit limited to 200,000 vehicles per manufacturer, threatens its rate of growth.
Still, Ford, like rival General Motors, sees a future in EVs. As for AVs, Hinrichs showed tempered enthusiasm, mentioning that his company’s plan “allows us to adjust our investment spending to accommodate the pace of growth.”
One last announcement came today — that of the production site of the next-generation Transit Connect van. Currently built in Spain, production will shift to Hermosillo, Mexico in 2021, in keeping with the need to boost “U.S. and Canadian vehicle content consistent with the proposed USMCA trade agreement.”