Ford Motor Co. today announced plans to build its E-Transit van at its assembly plant outside Kansas City, Missouri, investing $100 million to prepare the factory for the battery-electric van.
It also will hire 350 workers at that factory and another in suburban Detroit set to assemble an all-electric version of the F-150 pickup. The new electric van is set to make its debut Thursday, officials noted.
The announcement comes just a day after General Motors revealed plans to hire 3,000 workers, most of them software engineers, to help speed up its own battery-car program. Detroit’s automakers, in general, have been ramping up their electrification programs, Fiat Chrysler last month agreeing to spend $1.5 billion on a Windsor, Ontario plant to convert it to build EVs as part of a settlement with its Canadian union.
Ford’s latest news is part of an $11.5 billion electrification program that will, among other things, see it develop an all-electric version of its classic muscle car, the new Mustang Mach-E, which will become its first long-range model.
“We’re taking our most iconic vehicles and using fully electric technology to deliver even more performance, productivity and capability for customers,” said Kumar Galhotra, president, Americas and International Markets Group. “We are building out the North American manufacturing footprint to support this growth. This is just the first chapter with more new electric vehicles and more investment to come.”
The Ford plant in Claycomo, Missouri will not only undergo a $100 million investment to allow it to produce the E-Transit, but also add 150 full-time jobs. Another 200 workers will be hired at the Ford Rouge complex in Dearborn, Michigan, set to produce the electric F-150. That will be on top of a previously announced 300 jobs for the pickup plant, which will undergo a $700 million update.
Ford also revealed Tuesday that it will spend $150 million to tool up a component plant in the Detroit suburb of Sterling Heights to produce electric motors and transaxles.
Each of the Detroit manufacturers has been taking its own approach to battery power. GM, notably, is “on a path to an all-electric future,” according to CEO Mary Barra, with plans to produce 20 or more all-electric models by 2023.
Ford, however, is developing a mix of hybrid, plug-in and pure battery-electric vehicles, or HEVs, PHEVs and BEVs. It is launching several plug-in hybrids, starting with versions of the Lincoln Nautilus and Aviator SUVs.
It confirmed today that it will add a fourth BEV which will be assembled at its Cuautitlan, Mexico plant alongside the Ford Mustang Mach-E. While it did not offer specific details, the company did say that this new model will “share a similar electrified platform” with the Mach-E.
Like most manufacturers, Ford is now relying on skateboard-like “architectures” for its BEVs, with batteries, motors and other key components mounted below the load floor. That saves space for passengers and cargo while also lowering the vehicle’s center of gravity to improve handling.
In a statement, Ford described the developments to date as part of the “first wave” of its electrification program. It has a number of additional, battery-based vehicles in development, including one that will be assembled at a factory in Oakville, Ontario starting in 2024. The automaker plans to invest C$1.8 billion, or US$1.35 billion, to prepare that line for the project.
“We are investing heavily in our vehicle programs as well as building out our manufacturing capabilities,” said Hau Thai-Tang, chief product platform and operations officer. “This will allow us to scale quickly as customer interest in these new products grows.”
While sales of all forms of electrified vehicles will account for barely 5% of the U.S. market this year, industry analysts and planners expect that to accelerate rapidly this decade as more new products come to market in new segments. The increase also will be fueled by declining prices and the expansion of the U.S. public charging network.