Despite growing controversy and attacks by U.S. presidential frontrunner Donald Trump, Ford Motor Co. is gearing up to build its new Model E electric hybrid car at a new factory in Mexico, according to reports.
According to Digital Trends, the new Ford factory will have a capacity of 300,000 cars annually. At present, Ford reportedly thinks about 50,000 of them will be Model E’s. It will also shift production of the Focus model to the Mexican plant when it begins production in 2019.
The Model E is billed as a “Prius fighter,” although with Toyota Prius sales falling dramatically in this time of low gas prices, Ford may be a little late getting into the hybrid game.
Not much is known about the new Ford car except that it will be built on an all new chassis designed from the ground up to be powered by a battery and an electric motor. Industry sources claim it will also accommodate hybrid and plug-in hybrid powertrains.
The new Ford plant in Mexico was the focus of controversy last week. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump assailed the plan as slap in the face to American workers.
Trump said; “This transaction is an absolute disgrace. Our dishonest politicians and the special interests that control them are laughing in the face of all American citizens. When I am president, we will strongly enforce trade rules against unfair foreign subsidies, and impose countervailing duties to prevent egregious instances of outsourcing.”
The UAW’s president called Ford’s plan to make small cars in Mexico instead of the U.S. “very troubling.”
But executives say it’s the reality of the shrinking market for low-margin cars, even if it puts Ford in the crosshairs of a presidential election in which globalization and its effect on working-class American jobs has become a central issue. Weak car sales also compelled Fiat Chrysler Automobiles to announce 1,300 job cuts in Michigan last week.
Ford plans to start building the $1.6 billion plant in Mexico this summer, without waiting to see if Trump gets a chance to follow through on threats to tax vehicles crossing the border.
“We’re a proud American company,” Joe Hinrichs, Ford’s president of the Americas, told Automotive News. “We set up our global manufacturing footprint and our facilities where we think it makes the most sense for our business.”
Ford said the plant, scheduled to open in 2018 and create 2,800 direct jobs by 2020, is necessary to make its small cars more profitable and that no jobs will be cut in the U.S. as a result. It plans to halt U.S. production of its Focus and C-Max compacts in 2018, dedicating its Michigan Assembly Plant to lucrative pickups and SUVs instead, sources have said.
That means the 3,700 people who work there should have better job security building the bigger, costlier vehicles consumers can’t get enough of than continuing to make slow-selling compacts, many of which now end up in rental fleets. But UAW President Dennis Williams — who has known of Ford’s plan for nearly a year but didn’t block it during last fall’s contract talks — still blasted Ford for shifting production south of the border and criticized the trade agreements that allow it.
“For every investment in Mexico it means jobs that could have and should have been available right here in the USA,” Williams said in a statement. “Companies continue to run to low-wage countries and import back into the United States. This is a broken system that needs to be fixed.”
Also last week, FCA announced it would lay off 1,300 workers over feeble demand for the Chrysler 200 sedan. Production of that car ultimately may be outsourced to Mexico or another country.
Ford officials have tried to blunt the criticism by pointing out that more than 80 percent of its capital spending and 97 percent of engineering work occurs in the U.S. The company has added 25,000 jobs and invested more than $10 billion in the U.S. since 2011, with at least $9 billion more committed by 2019, the automaker said.
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