Now it’s a vast plot of woods and farmland, but, over the next three years, the nearly 6-square-mile plot in Stanton, Tennessee will become the largest manufacturing complex in Ford Motor Co. history, and one of the largest ever for the entire auto industry.
Workers today broke ground for what is set to become BlueOval City. When it opens in 2025, it will produce electric vehicles including the next-generation Ford F-150 Lightning. The complex also will feature a battery plant capable of rolling out enough batteries to power up nearly 400,000 vehicles like the Lightning pickup. And it will add a battery recycling facility, as well.
“This facility is the blueprint for Ford’s future manufacturing facilities and will enable Ford to help lead America’s shift to electric vehicles,” said Eric Grubb, Ford’s director of new footprint construction.
A massive financial commitment
Ford CEO Jim Farley has committed billions of dollars to finance the automaker’s shift, laying out a target of producing 2 million battery-electric vehicles annually by late 2026. The automaker introduced its first long-range BEV, the Mustang Mach-E, in 2021, rolling out a second, the Lightning, this past spring. They already have positioned Ford as the second best-selling manufacturer in the U.S. BEV market, behind Tesla.
The automaker has confirmed a number of other all-electric models are in the works. That includes a second pickup set to be assembled in BlueOval City, as well as a Lincoln SUV. Meanwhile, as TheDetroitBureau.com reported earlier this week, the newly launched, seventh-generation Mustang is planned to be the last to use an internal combustion engine. Ford is expected to switch to an all-electric powertrain for the gen-8 pony car late in the decade.
The automaker is taking a multi-pronged approach as it gears up for the switch to electric propulsion. It’s not only rolled out its first two long-range BEVs but, earlier this year, announced a major corporate transformation. The company was effectively cleaved into two halves, one focusing on vehicles using internal combustion engines, Ford Blue, while the other is all-electric, Ford Model e.
New plants and old
In turn, a number of Ford’s traditional car plants will be converted to handle the introduction of future BEVs. But the Tennessee complex, not far from Memphis, will be the flagship operation for the new Model e side of the company.
Together with its Korean battery partner SK Innovation, it will invest a combined $11.4 billion to build both BlueOval City and an additional pair of battery plants in neighboring Kentucky. The Tennessee complex alone will come in around $5.6 billion, and it’s expected to employ 6,000 people when fully operational.
The official groundbreaking in Tennessee comes almost exactly a year to the day after the two projects were announced by Farley, Ford Chairman Bill Ford Jr. and other members of the senior management team.
A pivotal moment
“This is a really pivotal moment for us,” Lisa Drake, Ford’s North American Chief Operating Officer, said at the time.
The project is frequently compared to the one CEO Ford’s great-grandfather, Henry Ford, undertook more than a century ago. His manufacturing complex along Michigan’s Rouge River was — and still remains — one of the world’s biggest automotive facilities, though it will be dwarfed by BlueOval City.
The two sites have several things in common. Company founder Ford planned the Rouge complex as an all-encompassing manufacturing center. His ships brought in raw material, such as iron ore, coal and sand to produce virtually everything needed for the products built there.
By the numbers
While basics like steel and glass won’t be produced by Ford in Tennessee, Farley wants to have Ford in-source more of the parts and components — especially critical parts like batteries and motors — that have been handled by outside suppliers in recent decades.
While Ford is just marking the official groundbreaking for BlueOval City, site prep work has actually been underway since March, it revealed. Since then, crews have moved more than 4.6 million cubic yards of soil which, it estimated, is “enough to fill approximately 34,500 backyard swimming pools.”
It’s also laid down 370,000 tons of stone — which it says weighs more than 1,600 Statues of Liberty. With the foundations in place, it is now getting down to the real business, putting up structural steel for the assembly and battery plants that will begin rolling out new battery-electric vehicles barely three years from now.