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Ford to build battery electric vehicles at Michigan plant

Ford Motor Co. will invest more than $850 million through 2023 to build fully battery electric vehicles at its assembly plant in southeast Michigan, the automaker announced March 20.

The Flat Rock assembly plant will produce vehicles built on Ford's next-generation battery electric architecture, but the company did not say which models those would be.

The investment in the assembly plant will add about 900 jobs through 2023, the automaker said in a news release. It forms the bulk of the company's plan to invest a total of $900 million in the plant's operations. The plan also includes funding to build the next-generation Mustang.

Ford's all-electric performance SUV will launch in 2020 from the company's plant in Mexico, and vehicles built at the Michigan site will follow the SUV's battery electric architecture.

"We've taken a fresh look at the growth rates of electrified vehicles and know we need to protect additional production capacity given our accelerated plans for fully electric vehicles," Joe Hinrichs, Ford's president of global operations, said in the news release. "This is good news for the future of southeast Michigan, delivering more good-paying manufacturing jobs."

Ford also said it will build its first autonomous vehicles at a new manufacturing center in southeast Michigan, where it will combine commercial-grade hybrid vehicles with self-driving technology.

"As we ramp up AV production, this plan allows us to adjust our investment spending to accommodate the pace of growth of this exciting new technology," Hinrichs said. "This new plan combines our core strength in mass manufacturing with the agility and leanness we've shown with our modification centers for specialty manufacturing."

Ford said production of its autonomous vehicles will start in 2021 and will be used with commercial services "to move people and goods."

The automaker also announced that it is building its next-generation North American Transit Connect small-commercial and passenger van in Mexico starting in 2021.

In January, Ford announced an alliance with Volkswagen AG to develop commercial vans and medium-size pickups for global markets, beginning as early as 2022.

They announced that the alliance, which does not entail cross-ownership between the two companies, will be led by a joint committee overseen by both Volkswagen CEO Herbert Diess and Ford CEO Jim Hackett.

In July 2018, Ford unveiled a restructuring plan and estimated that more than 20,000 jobs will be cut from the automaker's global workforce of 202,000 employees. The plan includes changes to its operations in regional markets.