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Dozens of companies in California are reportedly now test self-driving cars, with Samsung being the latest corporation to get permission from the state’s Department of Motor Vehicles. Wochit
Ford Motor Co. is making an out-of-the-blue pivot from saying last year it would not build a plant in Mexico for electric vehicle production to doing precisely that, also saying it will revamp a Detroit-area plant for future production of its first autonomous vehicle in Michigan.
The Flat Rock plant had been designated for EV production. Alan Hall, Ford spokesman, said the latest plan will result in hundreds more jobs at the Michigan plant.
The UAW told the Free Press on Thursday that the latest decision by Ford to do EV production in Mexico will not impact jobs at home because the union already negotiated future job commitments.
“During the 2015 negotiations with Ford Motor Company, we secured significant product investment for our members at the Flat Rock Assembly Plant and other manufacturing facilities in the U.S.,” said UAW Vice President Jimmy Settles. “Yesterday’s announcement by Ford to expand production of autonomous vehicles at Flat Rock, and move a low-volume electric SUV to Mexico does not affect our jobs or economic investment commitments.”
The labor union represents 59,000 Ford workers.
“We are confident the move to expand autonomous production at Flat Rock will provide additional job security for our current members and create additional job opportunities for those in the surrounding communities,” Settles said. “This move also gives us a more secure footing today and going forward with autonomous vehicle manufacturing in UAW represented facilities.”
While the UAW is never thrilled with manufacturing across the border, officials note that small car production is already being done south of the border because of cost issues.
Jim Farley, president of global markets for Ford, was quoted as saying the decision shows the start of “the foundation of Ford’s bet on AV’s (autonomous-drive vehicles). We’re very excited about what we are doing.”
Farley told the Wall Street Journal that the move will make Flat Rock the “center of excellence” for future driverless vehicles.
Early this year, in response to criticism from President Donald Trump, Ford doubled down its commitment to keep jobs in Michigan.
Some observers wondered why the Mexico announcement wasn’t made in October, when Ford CEO Jim Hackett met with investors.
“This is all a bit strange,” said Dave Sullivan, a product analysis manager at AutoPacific Inc. “Was the original Flat Rock announcement merely lip service to the president?
“Ford’s plans seem to be a bit scattered these days,” he said. “It wasn’t too long ago Ford canceled plans to build a plant in Mexico. This is like plant musical chairs. I mean, they broke ground in Mexico and had to pay money to get out of contracts. So now we’re back to making cars in Mexico? It’s just a bit disconcerting from the outside looking in to see how many planned and unplanned announcements there are coming out of Ford this week. Seems a bit chaotic there.”
News of the shift in plans — which includes an additional $200 million investment in Flat Rock — was first reported by the Wall Street Journal while Ford officials tour China. The vehicle to be built in Michigan is said to be an entirely new model for Ford, a hybrid-electric autonomous vehicle.
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