Ford announced this week that they were investing $750 million into their production facility in Wayne, Michigan. The end result will be an addition of 2,700 more jobs. As part of this announcement, Ford also said they will add 300 new direct jobs from a $700 million investment in the Dearborn manufacturing site. While that’s great news for the local economy and certainly a win for the UAW workers, who just recently ratified a new labor contract, what does it really mean for the consumer?
Ford Is Ready for Autonomous Vehicles
All of this investment is part of Ford’s global initiative to produce hybrid, battery electric vehicles (BEV) and autonomous versions of their best-selling vehicles, and yes that includes their truck and SUV line. In fact, as part of the investment, one of the first benefactors loaded with autonomous technology will be the Ford Bronco and Ranger. At the newly invested plant in Wayne, Broncos and Rangers will have self-driving technology installed in them for special orders from customers.
According to Joe Hinrichs, Ford’s president, Automotive, this will be the first center of its kind for Ford and will drive synergies with the company’s already existing AV research functions. “At Ford, we are investing aggressively in building on our strengths today – including trucks and SUVs – while at the same time expanding our leadership into electric and autonomous vehicles,” Hinrichs said. “As America’s No. 1 producer of automobiles, we are proud of our commitment to invest in manufacturing here in Michigan.”
Ford seems to be onto something here with their BEV idea and with this investment. One of the big issues with electric vehicles continues to be the perceived issue of range anxiety. While in reality range anxiety is less of an issue, for an uncertain consumer, that continues to hold them back from embracing. Additionally, there is a great deal of uncertainty regarding autonomy.
Some consumers seek it, but many of the tried and true Blue Oval consumer base will be lukewarm to the idea. So while this sounds good in theory and has to be part of Ford’s global strategy, they will need to do a lot of convincing of an otherwise skeptical consumer.
Sherif Marakby is the vice president of Autonomous and Electric Vehicles for Ford and he said, “Throwing a charger in the trunk of a vehicle and sending customers on their way isn’t enough to help promote the viability of electric vehicles. In addition to expanding our electric vehicle lineup, we are redesigning the ownership experience to ensure it addresses customer pain points that currently hold back broad adoption today.”
With this investment and expansion at the Wayne facility, Ford is all in on this concept. This could be a huge turning point in Ford’s history as they build toward and look toward the future. The consumer is the real winner when it comes this news.
Ford Is Preparing to Electrify the F-150
Another hot button area is in electrification. With the controversial unveiling of the Mustang Mach E, Ford is showing they’re going to take chances in the market. Nothing shows that more than putting a Mustang logo on an electrified crossover. This isn’t the Ford your grandfather knew, that’s for sure. The Dearborn investment and expansion will benefit future F-150s.
Ford is going ahead with plans for a hybrid version of the F-150 as well as an electrified version of the F-150. Again this may require a retraining of the consumer mindset. Jim Farley, Ford president of Global Markets said “Hybrids for years have been mostly niche products but are now on the cusp of a mainstream breakout. The valuable capability they offer – plus fuel efficiency – is why we’re going to offer hybrid variants of our most popular and high-volume vehicles, allowing our loyal, passionate customers to become advocates for the technology.”
In 2020, Ford will unveil a hybrid F-150. Shortly thereafter Ford will debut an all-electric F-150. They’ve already released a video showing the towing capability of the electrified pickup truck. These trucks will be built in the Dearborn Truck Plant, where Ford just invested to accommodate the increase in production.
It will be a slow process winning over the truck segment with hybrid technology and BEV technology. There’s a great deal of misunderstanding about this technology in the marketplace. So while it’s great that Ford is putting their money into this technology, they will need to spend additional dollars in consumer education in order to truly make this a success.
See you in my next story discussing the attitude of the millennials toward Ford Mustang and if they still love this car. Also check my story from Dec. 30, 2019 discussing a 725-horsepower 2019 Ford F-150 for $37,995.
Jimmy Dinsmore has been an automotive journalist for more than a decade and been a writer since the high school. His Driver’s Side column features new car reviews and runs in several newspapers throughout the country. In addition to being a nationally syndicated automotive columnist, Jimmy has been published in a compilation book about children growing up with disabilities, where he shared his own very personal experience. He is also co-author of the book “Mustang by Design” and “Ford Trucks: A Unique Look at the Technical History of America’s Most Popular Truck”. Also, Jimmy works in the social media marketing world for a Canadian automotive training aid manufacturing company. Follow Jimmy on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.