Ford Invests $1.2 Billion Into Its Michigan Facilities, But the Cash Isn't a Big Surprise

Matt Posky
by Matt Posky

Ford Motor Company has announced that it will invest $1.2 billion into three Michigan facilities to strengthen its status among truck and SUVs manufacturers and to further enhance its role as a “mobility company.” Most importantly, the cash is needed if Americans ever want to get their hands on a Bronco or Ranger again.

Many of the investments are included in the automaker’s 2015 promise to pour nine billion dollars into its U.S. plants over the next several years. In an agreement with UAW made almost two years ago, Ford said it would pour $700 million into the Michigan Assembly plant, $150 million into the Romeo Engine plant, and $400 million for Flat Rock Assembly.

While these were not the only locations promised capital, Ford released an official statement that all three would see the promised amount — or better.

The Michigan Assembly Plant is receiving $850 million to retool the facility ahead of the new Ranger and Bronco. Production will begin on the Ranger near the end of 2018, with the Bronco to follow in 2020. The swap will mimic the Dearborn truck plant changeover in 2014 and is speculated to create only four weeks of downtime. That’s important, as every day that the Ranger isn’t on the market is another day the company is missing out on one of America’s fastest-growing segments.

Ford has also made plans to invest the promised $150 million to expand capacity for engine components at the Romeo Engine plant. A portion of the undertaking will go toward powertrain production for the upcoming vehicles and follow a similar timeline. Engine production will continue for the F-Series, E-Series, Explorer, Edge, and Mustang lineup with tooling for an additional motor to be added in early 2018.

The automaker says the stimulus should create or retain 130 jobs in Romeo. However, since the two terms aren’t exactly interchangeable, it could indicate net zero new employment opportunities.

Flat Rock Assembly, on the other hand, is being promised 700 new openings from a previously announced $700 million investment. The vast majority of that money will go toward the the development of a production line capable of manufacturing electrified and autonomous vehicles. While Ford established its intent for Flat Rock as a mobility hub back in January, the Tuesday announcement included an additional $200 million for a secondary data center to supplement the investment — most likely at another location.

Ford was somewhat vague about what the new data centers would be purposed for. Assumably, the locations would be used for the data storage and management of its forthcoming mobility services and vehicle connectivity operations. But Ford also expressed that it might be used to strengthen its global insights and analytics team to “transform the customer experience, enable new mobility products and services, and help Ford operate more efficiently.”

That could mean anything from improving future autonomous vehicle mapping or software to identifying marketing opportunities and conducting consumer research. Either way, it reinforces Ford’s commitment to skew further away from its role as a traditional automaker and into the realm of mobility.

“At Ford, we are investing aggressively in building on our strengths today — including trucks, vans, commercial vehicles, performance vehicles and SUVs — while at the same time growing our leadership in electrification, autonomy and mobility services,” said Ford’s president of the Americas Joe Hinrichs in a company statement. “As America’s top producer of automobiles, we are proud to be going even further in our commitment to invest in manufacturing here at home.”

[Image: Ford Motor Co.]

Matt Posky
Matt Posky

A staunch consumer advocate tracking industry trends and regulation. Before joining TTAC, Matt spent a decade working for marketing and research firms based in NYC. Clients included several of the world’s largest automakers, global tire brands, and aftermarket part suppliers. Dissatisfied with the corporate world and resentful of having to wear suits everyday, he pivoted to writing about cars. Since then, that man has become an ardent supporter of the right-to-repair movement, been interviewed on the auto industry by national radio broadcasts, driven more rental cars than anyone ever should, participated in amateur rallying events, and received the requisite minimum training as sanctioned by the SCCA. Handy with a wrench, Matt grew up surrounded by Detroit auto workers and managed to get a pizza delivery job before he was legally eligible. He later found himself driving box trucks through Manhattan, guaranteeing future sympathy for actual truckers. He continues to conduct research pertaining to the automotive sector as an independent contractor and has since moved back to his native Michigan, closer to where the cars are born. A contrarian, Matt claims to prefer understeer — stating that front and all-wheel drive vehicles cater best to his driving style.

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  • Brettc Brettc on Mar 28, 2017

    So Ranger production reportedly begins in late 2018 at MAP. I'm assuming they'd stop building C platform cars in the summertime then?

    • JohnTaurus JohnTaurus on Mar 28, 2017

      It says the changeover should take about a month to complete, so I don't think they will need that much time. Its not like the Focus and C-Max are over, just over being built in Michigan. I can't blame Ford, I'm quite sure the Ranger and especially the Bronco will be far more profitable than the C cars. Makes sense to build them where costs are higher. I always thought (before the announcement of the Ranger/Bronco being built there) that Ford should have added the Transit Connect to the line that builds the Focus and C-Max there. It seems to sell okay, and that would have the double benefit of not worrying with the Chicken Tax anymore as well as keeping the assembly plant running (they've had a few shut downs there in the past due to excessive inventory of Focus/C-Max). I'm so sick of autocorrect turning Ford's Hybrid MPV into the X-Men. I added "C-Max" but it still defaults to comic books. Lol

  • Redapple Redapple on Mar 28, 2017

    I have not been in Michigan Truck in years. I ll assume it s long gone so.... On the wall in the plant that is the back wall for offices; bring back the giant LOGO. "Michigan Truck.... The Home of the Bronco."