Ford Reopens Cologne Facility as EV Plant

Matt Posky
by Matt Posky

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.]

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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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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.

  • 3-On-The-Tree I don’t think Toyotas going down.
  • ToolGuy Random thoughts (bulleted list because it should work on this page):• Carlos Tavares is a very smart individual.• I get the sense that the western hemisphere portion of Stellantis was even more messed up than he originally believed (I have no data), which is why the plan (old plan, original plan) has taken longer than expected (longer than I expected).• All the OEMs who have taken a serious look at what is happening with EVs in China have had to take a step back and reassess (oversimplification: they were thinking mostly business-as-usual with some tweaks here and there, and now realize they have bigger issues, much bigger, really big).• You (dear TTAC reader) aren't ready to hear this yet, but the EV thing is a tsunami (the thing has already done the thing, just hasn't reached you yet). I hesitate to even tell you, but it is the truth.
  • ToolGuy ¶ I have kicked around doing an engine rebuild at some point (I never have on an automobile); right now my interest level in that is pretty low, say 2/5.¶ It could be interesting to do an engine swap at some point (also haven't done that), call that 2/5 as well.¶ Building a kit car would be interesting but a big commitment, let's say 1/5 realistically.¶ Frame-up restoration, very little interest, 1/5.¶ I have repainted a vehicle (down to bare metal) and that was interesting/engaging (didn't have the right facilities, but made it work, sort of lol).¶ Taking a vehicle which I like where the ICE has given out and converting it to EV sounds engaging and appealing. Would not do it anytime soon, maybe 3 to 5 years out. Current interest level 4/5.¶ Building my own car (from scratch) would have some significant hurdles. Unless I started my own car company, which might involve other hurdles. 😉
  • Rover Sig "Value" is what people perceive as its worth. What is the worth or value of an EV somebody creates out of a used car? People value different things, but for a vehicle, people generally ascribe worth in terms of reliability, maintainability, safety, appearance and style, utility (payload, range, etc.), convenience, operating cost, projected life, support network, etc. "Value for money" means how much worth would people think it had compared to competing vehicles on the market, in other words, would it be a good deal to buy one, compared to other vehicles one could get? Consider what price you would have to ask for it, including the parts and labor you put into it, because that would affect the “for the money” part of the “value for money” calculation. An indicator of whether people think an EV-built-in-a-used-car would provide "value for money" is the current level of demand for used cars turned into EVs. Are there a lot of people looking for these on the market? Or would building one just be a hobby? Repairing an existing EV, bringing it back into spec, might create better value for the money. Although demand for EVs is reportedly down recently.
  • ToolGuy Those of you who aren't listening to the TTAC Podcast, you really don't know what you are missing.