Flat Rock to build robo cars

Ford also plan­ning to move elec­tric SUV pro­duc­tion to Mex­ico

The Detroit News - - Front Page - BY IAN THI­BODEAU The Detroit News

Ford Motor Co. thinks it soon will need more room in Michi­gan than ex­pected to build its au­ton­o­mous vehicles — and it’s picked Flat Rock As­sem­bly as the place to build them.

The com­pany now plans to build its new all-elec­tric SUV at an ex­ist­ing fa­cil­ity in Mex­ico; that ve­hi­cle orig­i­nally was slated for Flat Rock. The change will al­low the Dear­born-based au­tomaker to man­u­fac­ture greater num­bers of its up­com­ing au­ton­o­mous vehicles and will lead to more jobs at the Michi­gan plant, Ford spokesman Alan Hall said.

It’s an­other change of Ford’s plans for Mex­ico, and a move that could draw the ire of Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump, who less than a year ago praised the com­pany’s plan to build electrics at Flat Rock. Dur­ing his cam­paign and early in his pres­i­dency, Trump fre­quently crit­i­cized U.S. au­tomak­ers — sin­gling out Ford mul­ti­ple times — for plans to build fac­to­ries out­side of the U.S.

But pro­duc­ing the low-mar­gin elec­tric vehicles in Mex­ico will ul­ti­mately be cheaper for Ford, and the lower pro­duc­tion costs pro­tect against losses that could come if Congress votes to kill the $7,500 fed­eral tax cred­its for elec­tric ve­hi­cle pur­chases. Plus, ac­cord­ing to ex­perts, plans to prep the Michi­gan fac­tory for greaterthan-an­tic­i­pated vol­umes of au­ton­o­mous vehicles make Ford look good.

“It’s a good state­ment that they’re fo­cus­ing on AVs (au­ton­o­mous vehicles),” said Karl Brauer, ex­ec­u­tive pub­lisher of Au­to­trader and Kel­ley Blue Book. “Ev­ery car com­pany wants it to be seen that they’re think­ing about that.”

The hy­brid-elec­tric au­ton­o­mous ve­hi­cle to be built at Flat Rock will be an en­tirely new model. Ford will in­vest an ad­di­tional $200 mil­lion at the plant over the

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