Ford Reopens Cologne Facility as EV Plant

Matt Posky
by Matt Posky

ford reopens cologne facility as ev plant

On Monday, Ford Motor Co. opened the Cologne Electric Vehicle Center in Germany. Founded in 1930, the facility first produced examples of the Model A intended for the European market. Though the site is probably more famous for manufacturing the Ford Capri and every single generation of the humble Fiesta.

The factory has more recently been the recipient of a $2 billion investment to prepare it for the automaker’s push into electrification. With retooling having concluded, Ford says the plant should boast an annual production capacity of 250,000 electric vehicles.

Blue Oval is also trying to use the site as a way to boast about job creation after issuing sweeping layoffs in the European market. In 2019, the company said it would be selling facilities and eliminating roughly 12,000 jobs. Then, at the start of 2023, Ford announced it would need to cut another 2,300 jobs in Germany and 1,300 in the United Kingdom — citing economic hardship and its push into electrification.

The company hinted that its investment in Cologne is proof of its commitment to the European market and securing “skilled” German manufacturing jobs. However, a major component of the plant’s update included increased automation. German labor groups have likewise criticized automakers for leaning into EVs, which require less manpower and fewer jobs than internal combustion vehicles.

Advancements in automation and the implementation of artificial intelligence are only supposed to exacerbate the issue. That’s not a knock against Ford so much as it is the general direction the industry appears to be heading.

Most manufacturers are pivoting toward EVs due to the assumption that they’ll boast superior profit margins, require less localized labor, and provide additional opportunities for companies to introduce subscription-based payment models. Meanwhile, claims that electric cars are more environmentally sound than combustion vehicles are starting to fall flat.

From Ford:

Designed to be highly efficient, the 125-hectare site is equipped with a brand-new production line, battery assembly and state-of-the-art tooling and automation, enabling an annual production capacity of 250,000+ EVs. Following the successes of Mustang Mach-E, E-Transit and F-150 Lightning, Ford recently unveiled its fourth EV globally, the electric Explorer, which will be the first electric vehicle to be produced in Cologne, followed by a second electric vehicle, a sports crossover.
The Cologne EV Center will be Ford’s first carbon neutral assembly plant to open globally and supports the company’s commitment to reach carbon neutrality across its entire European footprint of facilities, logistics and direct suppliers by 2035.
“Opening the Cologne EV Center is the start of a new generation of clean manufacturing and electric vehicles in Europe,” said Bill Ford, Executive Chair. “This facility will now be one of the most efficient and environmentally responsible plants in the entire industry. I am thrilled to continue working toward a zero emissions future for our children and grandchildren.”

Carbon neutrality doesn’t mean there won’t be pollution. It still requires massive amounts of energy, and some potentially disagreeable material sourcing, to manufacture batteries. Battery waste will also become a mounting problem as more need to be disposed of until recycling efforts are improved. But companies are going to say whatever they need to assure the public that they’re in the right.

Though efforts have been made to make the facility itself more sustainable. For example, the electricity and natural gas used to run it are supposed to be certified as renewable. The local energy provider is supposed to offset the corresponding emissions from the plant on Ford's behalf. However, it won’t be able to offset all of the plant’s operating emissions until a speculative 2035 and the European Union's strict emissions regulations are already pressuring the automotive industry to make these kinds of changes.

Whether or not those goals are reached and what exactly “offsetting” entails are another matter.

"The carbon-neutral Cologne EV Center is a leading automotive industry showcase for the switch from traditional auto manufacturing to electric vehicle production," stated Martin Sander, Europe’s general manager of Ford Model e.

It certainly is. But there are a lot of lingering questions about how good that actually is for the environment and people hoping to remain gainfully employed.

[Image: Ford Motor Co.]

Become a TTAC insider. Get the latest news, features, TTAC takes, and everything else that gets to the truth about cars first by  subscribing to our newsletter.

Join the conversation
4 of 48 comments
  • El scotto El scotto on Jun 13, 2023

    I'll try this again. One horse pulling buggy. Needs fed and watered, waste needs disposal. Single purpose. Model T cheap enough for car ownership. Much maintenance with ICE, peripherals and drive train. Multitasker, lots of maintenance. EV's plug in at night and very low maintenance. Multitasker, ultra low maintenance.

    You can start a fire in your backyard, get a piece of bread, put a stick in it and hold it over the fire. Fire and stick are single purpose.

    You can go to the big box store and buy a toaster. The toaster can toast bread and bagels. Some toasters can toast six slices of toast at once! Progress! Your toaster can toast many slices of bread or bagels at the same time. Your toaster still has a single purpose.

    Go back to the big box store and buy a toaster over that includes quartz heating. Your toaster over is limited to four slices of bread or two bagels at once. However, your toaster oven also works as miniature oven. It can multitask.

    EVs will cover 90% of most people's needs and if no charging at home, there's lots of public charging available. Oh the horror of charging while grocery shopping!

    -smirks- I'd like to see a Venn diagram of jitterbug cell phone owners and ICE owners. I think you could cheat and just use one oval.

    I like Irish Butter on my toast.

  • Lbc_roadrabbit Lbc_roadrabbit on Jun 13, 2023

    "Most manufacturers are pivoting toward EVs due to the assumption that they’ll boast superior profit margins..."

    I don't think this is true. Most companies are moving to EVs due to government/market direction and hoping that profit margins are reasonable. Superior to ICE? That seems like a long ways out.

  • SCE to AUX "Despite the EV segment having enjoyed steady growth over the past several years, sales volumes have remained flatter through 2023."Not so. How can EV sales be increasing and flatter at the same time? and H/K/G are all up for EV sales, as are several other brands.
  • ToolGuy Here is an interesting graphic, if you're into that sort of thing.
  • ToolGuy Nice website you got there (even the glitches have glitches)
  • Namesakeone Actually, per the IIHS ratings, "Acceptable" is second best, not second worst. The ratings are "Good," "Acceptable," "Marginal" and "Poor."
  • Inside Looking Out "And safety was enhanced generally via new reversing lamps and turn signals fitted as standard equipment."Did not get it, turn signals were optional in 1954?