Ford Will Convert SUV Plant to Small Cars and New Electric Vehicle


Ford Motor Company announced that it is investing $550 million to transform its Michigan Assembly Plant into a lean, green and flexible manufacturing complex that will build Ford’s next-generation Focus global small car along with a new battery-electric version of the Focus for the North American market. The plant, formerly the production site for Ford Expedition and Lincoln Navigators SUVs, is one of three North American light truck plants Ford is retooling to build fuel-efficient small cars in the coming years.
This transformation will not only be a shift in the plant’s focus from large SUVs to small cars, it will also include more efficient assembly methods, more ergonomic design to improve working conditions, and an agreement with the United Auto Workers that implements new operating practices to improve quality and efficiency based on joint problem solving and continuous improvement .

The Michigan Assembly Plant has been in operation since 1957, first building station wagon bodies, and eventually progressing to producing light trucks and SUVs. The company plans to transform the plant into a leaner and more responsive operation by implementing a “flexible manufacturing” scheme, including a flexible body shop operation, which uses reprogrammable tooling in the body shop, standardized equipment in the paint shop and a common-build sequence in final assembly, enabling production of multiple models in the same plant.

The company plans to begin producing the new global Ford Focus at the plant in 2010, and in 2011 the Michigan plant will begin production of a battery-electric Focus, helping Ford meet its promise of delivering four new electric vehicles in the U.S. by 2012.

The zero-emission Focus battery-electric vehicle, which is being developed in partnership with Magna International, features a high-voltage electric motor powered by a high capacity Lithium Ion battery pack and is charged by plugging in to a 110-volt or 220-volt outlet. It is expected to have a range of 100 miles.


Ford president and CEO Alan Mulally had this to say about the company’s plans for the electric vehicle: “We believe that building this vehicle here at the Michigan Assembly plant, is going to be a critical step toward the commercialization and ultimately the acceptance of electric vehicles. And that’s really important to our country, it’s important to our community, and it’s important, frankly for the world.”

In addition to the Focus battery electric vehicle, Ford is collaborating with Smith Electric to sell a Transit Connect battery electric commercial vehicle for North America in 2010. Ford’s product plans also include a next-generation hybrid vehicle in 2012 and a plug-in hybrid vehicle in 2012.


Steve Puma is a sustainability and strategy consultant and technologist. He currently writes for 3p as well as on his personal blog,, about the intersection of sustainability, technology, innovation, and the future. Steve holds an MBA in Sustainable Management from the Presidio School of Management and a BA in Computer Science from Rutgers University. You can contact Steve through email or LinkedIn, or follow him on twitter.

Steve Puma is a sustainable business consultant and writer.Steve holds an MBA in Sustainable Management from Presidio Graduate School and a BA in Computer Science from Rutgers University. You can learn more about Steve by reading his blog, or following his tweets.

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