Ford shifts $900 million investments in Michigan plants for new electric, self-driving cars

By TransportationFOXBusiness

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Ford Motor Co. is shifting its previously announced investments in its Michigan plants that will produce the next-generation of electric cars and autonomous driving vehicles, ultimately driving what the carmaker expects will be hundreds of new jobs.

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As part of a prior $11.1 billion investment in emissions-free cars, the Dearborn, Michigan-based company's Flat Rock Assembly Plant will manufacture the “next-generation battery electric flexible architecture,” it said on Wednesday.

Ford did not specify which electric vehicles would be made there, but the pending line-up will follow the all-electric sports utility vehicle slated to be produced in Mexico for a 2020 release.

The announcements are part of a $900 million pledge Ford made in 2017 to revamp its Michigan-based manufacturing. The carmaker will now spend $850 million through 2023 to add a second shift at the Flat Rock plant, as well as to prepare for production of the next-generation Mustang.

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“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 President Joe Hinrichs. 

The remaining $50 million will also be used to build Ford’s first plant for self-driving vehicles, where production will begin in 2021 – putting the carmaker behind rivals like General Motors in the rush to develop autonomous driving technology.

“This plan allows us to adjust our investment spending to accommodate the pace of growth of this exciting new technology,” Hinrichs said.

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FFORD MOTOR COMPANY8.77-0.27-2.99%

Meanwhile, more than 3,000 Ford Explorer owners have warned federal regulators and the company that carbon monoxide gas may be slipping into the cabin, according to a report from Bloomberg News.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is investing the claims, but has not yet labeled it a safety defect, which would cost Ford potentially hundreds of millions of dollars to fix.

“All of our testing to date has shown these vehicles are safe. Ford’s investigation has not found carbon monoxide levels that exceed what people are exposed to every day. If an owner has concerns, they should contact their dealer for inspection,” a Ford spokesman said in an emailed statement.

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In a 76-mile drive Bloomberg conducted with one Explorer owner, two carbon monoxide detectors showed little to no amounts of the gas.

This article was updated to reflect that Ford's investment in its Michigan plants was announced previously.