Ford on Wednesday announced a shakeup in production plans for future electric and self-driving cars.
Under the latest plans, the Flat Rock Assembly Plant south of Detroit will become a production hub for Ford's electric cars, though the site will also continue to build Mustangs—including a seventh-generation Mustang expected in 2021.
EVs to be built at the Flat Rock plant will be next-generation designs based on a new modular platform. These will follow the much-hyped, Mustang-inspired electric SUV due in 2020, which Ford will build at its plant in Cuautitlan, Mexico.
2020 Ford electric SUV teaser
To accommodate the future production at the Flat Rock plant, Ford will invest more than $850 million through 2023 and add a second shift, with the efforts expected to result in close to 900 new jobs. The investment is part of an $11.1 billion package Ford is spending to electrify its lineup worldwide.
Under the original plans announced in 2017, Ford was going to build the Mustang-inspired electric SUV, the next-gen EVs, and self-driving cars at the Flat Rock plant. Ford said the shakeup is due to an expected increase in demand for EVs in the coming years.
“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,” Joe Hinrichs, Ford’s president of global operations, explained.
Ford self-driving cars in Washington DC
Ford's first self-driving cars will enter production in 2021. The automaker said these will be hybrid vehicles sourced from a plant in Southeast Michigan, with their self-driving systems and unique interiors consisting of no steering wheel or pedals to be installed at a dedicated center.
These won't be sold to the public but rather used in commercial services aimed at moving people and goods. Why? Because they'll feature Level 4 self-driving capability, which eliminates the need for a driver, but the car is limited to where it can go. You need to reach Level 5 for there to be no driver and be able to also go anywhere. Ford estimates that Level 5 capability won't be ready until the middle of the next decade.
Finally, Ford also announced Wednesday that a next-generation Transit Connect will be built at its plant in Hermosillo, Mexico. The new commercial van is due in 2021.