Ford to test new self-driving vehicle technology in 2018

The company says it will still go ahead with plans to invest and create new jobs at Flat Rock, but that it will build self-driving cars there instead, rather than electric cars.

Ford Motor plans to build a new electric vehicle in Mexico rather than in MI, choosing instead to build a future self-driving vehicle at the Detroit-area plant. That vehicle will now be made at an existing Mexico facility.

The news was celebrated by the incoming Trump administration, which claimed that it had convinced USA automakers to bring jobs home. Ford has since confirmed it has adjusted production plans to move the new crossover to Mexico. GM plans to launch its automated driving services with a heavily modified Chevrolet Bolt EV, demonstrated last week on the streets of San Francisco.

According to Alan Hall, a Ford spokesman, the Detroit-area plant that was set up to manufacture EVs is being revamped to produce the first autonomous vehicle in MI. The driverless vehicle is to debut in 2021. Since it's cheaper to produce cars in Mexico, it makes sense to build the electric SUV there.

At the Flat Rock plant, Ford is boosting investment to US$900 million from US$700 million and adding 850 jobs.

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The company, along with every other automaker, is making a major push into self-driving vehicle technology. After replacing Mark Fields as CEO in May, one of Hackett's first moves was to shift a plan to make the Focus small vehicle in Mexico to one of the automaker's plants in China.

The net effect is hundreds of additional American jobs there, he said.

The self-driving auto Ford will build in MI will be a commercial vehicle specifically designed for ride-hailing and delivery services, Jim Farley, executive vice president of global markets, wrote in a Medium post Wednesday.

Ford Motor Co will begin testing its latest self-driving vehicle technology next year in at least one city but has not changed its plan to begin commercial production until 2021, the company said. Ford's autonomous business will "serve leading companies, such as Lyft, in the movement of people and goods".

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