Ford (NYSE:F) plans to produce a future electric auto in Mexico rather than in the USA, reversing its January announcement that the Flat Rock, Mich., assembly plant would serve as its main electric vehicle production site, WSJ reports.
The move is part of a larger plan to free up production space at the automaker's plant in Flat Rock, Michigan so it can build its first autonomous-drive vehicle. Ford has since confirmed it has adjusted production plans to move the new crossover to Mexico.
Ford's Flat Rock Assembly Plant, in MI, builds the Mustang and the Lincoln Continental.
Ford Motor Co will begin testing its latest self-driving vehicle technology next year in at least one city but has not changed its plan to begin commercial production until 2021, the company said. It isn't clear if this autonomous model will even be sold to individual customers.
The Flat Rock, Mich. factory had been designated for production of an unidentified electric auto. The shift is meant to free up some capacity at Flat Rock to enable Ford to build its first fully-autonomous vehicle there.
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The net effect is hundreds of additional American jobs there, he said.
Ford believes this move allows it to do both, by transforming Flat Rock into an "AV center of excellence" while moving an expected low-margin electric vehicle to a country with lower labor costs. According to the memo obtained by Automotive News, the crossover will be a global product produced in Mexico.
As of a year ago, Ford had meant to build the autonomous vehicle at its planned small-car plant in San Luis Potosi, Mexico, but that facility was canceled in January.
The Blue Oval brand is also trying to overcome analyst and investor sentiments that it is lagging Silicon Valley and crosstown rival General Motors when it comes to autonomous vehicle development.