Ford Motor Co. will build a new, 500,000-square-foot electric vehicle manufacturing operation at the historic Ford Rouge Center, the automaker said Thursday, creating 300 new jobs to support battery assembly and production of hybrid and battery-electric versions of its profit-rich F-150 pick-up truck.
The Blue Oval is eyeing a mid-2022 launch of the first battery-electric version of the truck. Meanwhile, it is now launching production of the next-generation F-150, which is due on dealer lots later this year. In all, the automaker says it will invest $700 million in the Rouge complex to support production of the new F-150 lineup.
“We are proud to once again build and innovate for the future here at the Rouge with the debut of our all-new F-150 and the construction of a modern new manufacturing center to build the first-ever all-electric F-150,” Executive Chairman Bill Ford said in a statement. “This year’s COVID-19 crisis made it clear why it is so important for companies like Ford to help keep our U.S. manufacturing base strong and help our country get back to work.”
U.S. Rep. Debbie Dingell, D-Dearborn, called the news “game changing:” “An all-electric version of the best selling vehicle in the U.S. and built right here in Southeast Michigan — that’s win-win! This commitment to American manufacturing leads innovation and climate leadership.”
Ford is billing the new site — which will feature robots working alongside employees, and self-driving “sleds” that can move vehicle beds between stations — as its most technologically-advanced facility to date.
“Like the all-new electric model, the facility that will be home to the electric F-150 is also being designed to bring Ford’s vision of American manufacturing and sustainability into the future. Using smart, connected technologies, we can communicate directly with the vehicles we are assembling,” said Gary Johnson, Ford’s chief manufacturing and labor affairs officer.
And, Johnson said, the new facility can be expanded in the future, as demand for electric vehicles grows. EVs currently make up just a tiny slice of overall vehicle sales in the U.S., but Detroit’s automakers are betting that the future of the industry will be defined by electric and autonomous vehicles. Ford has committed to investing $11 billion on EV development by 2022.
The automaker on Thursday shared new details about the electric F-150, which it claims will deliver the most horsepower and torque of any F-150 yet, the fastest zero-to-60 times, and the ability to tow heavy trailers.
The battery-electric truck will debut new technology that allows mobile power generation; come with dual electric motors; and feature a front trunk to add cargo-carrying capacity. The electric version will offer over-the-air software updates, which are being introduced in the new F-150 lineup. And Ford claims electric truck owners stand to save as much as 40% over the vehicle’s lifetime compared to the costs of owning a vehicle with an internal combustion engine because electric vehicles require less maintenance.