May 27, 2022

The Japan Herald

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Michigan aspires to be America’s leader in electric automobiles. Ford went in a different direction

2 min read

Governor Gretchen Whitmer celebrated everything from 100 new employment at a Plymouth battery manufacturing to her idea for a charging network surrounding Lake Michigan in September, which looked to be an excellent month for the electric vehicle announcements in Michigan. However, the public perception of Michigan’s car electrification progress shifted abruptly when Ford Motor Co. unveiled plans for two new production campuses valued at $11.4 billion, the company’s largest manufacturing investment ever.

Neither project will take place in Michigan, raising doubts about how well the state is positioned to compete with automakers as it adjusts its century-long automotive capabilities to the industry’s shift away from gasoline-powered engines and toward electrification.

The two new Ford battery and assembly plants, when combined, represent significant steps forward in the automaker’s “long-term strategy to lead America’s transition to electric vehicles.” Even though the plans are being developed in other states, John Austin, who works as an economist, claims that the projects will help Michigan as well, given Ford’s continuous state investments in other parts of EV production, such as high-value engineering.

However, the announcement calls into question Michigan’s claimed objective of spearheading the global transition to automobile electrification, or EVs. In a statement announcing Ford’s large investment in battery manufacture in two other states, Randy Thelen, Chief Executive Officer of The Right Place, which is an economic development firm located in Grand Rapids, said, “The automotive industry is Michigan’s game to lose, and we’ve lost the first inning.”

Ford chose Tennessee for “the largest, most innovative, and most efficient vehicle production facility in Ford’s history,” according to the Dearborn-based company. Blue Oval City will be a 3,600-acre development northeast of Memphis that will employ 6,000 people.

Ford chose Kentucky for its twin battery facilities, which will be built on 1,500 acres southwest of Louisville with partner SK Innovation, which is a battery cell provider. With the unveiling of the two new facilities, Ford’s cumulative investment in EV batteries has surpassed all other manufacturers’ combined investment in electric and autonomous automobiles in Michigan over the last decade. MichAUTO, the Detroit Regional Chamber of Commerce’s auto-focused arm, reported that $10.6 billion was spent in Michigan between 2010 and 2020, about a billion dollars less than the two new plants are worth.

When asked about the Tennessee and Kentucky accords, Whitmer stated that Ford did not really negotiate with Michigan for the factories, a claim echoed by the president of Michigan Economic Development Corporation earlier this week.

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