Ford Motor Co. said Tuesday it is accelerating its shift to electric-vehicle manufacturing, boosting the number of workers who will make an electric version of its F-150 pickup and adding a plug-in model at a Mexican factory building battery-powered Mustangs.
The automaker also will manufacture a battery-powered Transit van at its facility near Kansas City, Mo., investing $100 million there and adding 150 jobs, it said in a statement. The financial commitment was previously disclosed in a contract with the United Auto Workers.
Ford President of the Americas Kumar Galhotra says the company expects strong demand for the vans as many package delivery companies try to reduce their carbon footprints. The company also expects high demand for the electric pickup. Galhotra says production forecasts will be released later.
Ford's moves come a day after General Motors Co. announced plans to hire 3,000 engineers, designers and information-technology specialists to help develop electric cars and trucks. The auto industry is speeding its electric vehicle plans as consumers embrace battery-powered models by Tesla Inc. and regulators around the world impose stringent mandates for zero-emission vehicles. President-elect Joe Biden plans an aggressive clean-energy program, including 500,000 charging stations for electric cars nationwide.
The company says these are early investments in the first phase of its plan to build more electric vehicles. Ford has said it will invest $11.5 billion in electric vehicle factories through 2022.
With the electric F-150 still more than a year from hitting the market, the automaker is raising output targets at a factory still under construction in Dearborn, Mich. Ford now plans to hire an extra 200 workers at the plant, bringing the total of new jobs to 500.
Demand for the electric pickup was higher than expected after it was announced in September, Galhotra said. "We immediately started working on increasing the capacity of the plant," he said. "We need more people to assemble the vehicles."
Ford is investing $700 million to build the electric-truck factory and upgrade an adjoining plant making gas-powered pickups at its century-old Rouge complex near its Dearborn headquarters.
"The demand was higher than what we had planned for," Galhotra said. "So we immediately started working on how to get substantially more capacity from that plant and that requires 200 more people."
At a factory in Cuautitlan, Mexico, Ford is adding a second, unidentified battery-powered model to the assembly line that just began producing the Mustang Mach-E. The new model will be built on a similar mechanical foundation as the Mach-E, the automaker said.
Ford declined to say when that second model will go into production or how many it will produce. It has previously said it would build about 50,000 Mach-E models a year, and Galhotra said reception to that electric crossover has been "fantastic."
"We don't want to be just one of the many" automakers "to transition to electric," Ford's new Chief Executive Officer Jim Farley told investors last month. "We want to lead the electric change."
Ford also announced Tuesday that it will spend about $150 million at a transmission plant in Sterling Heights, Mich., to make electric motors and transaxles for new electric vehicles. No new jobs will be added but the investment will help keep 225 positions.
Ford's optimism about electric vehicles may be a little ahead of where U.S. buyers are, but analysts expect electric vehicle sales to grow as more new models go on sale. Last year, automakers sold just over 236,000 fully electric vehicles, up 36% from 2018. But that amounted to only 1.4% of all new vehicles sold in the country.
Information for this article was contributed by Keith Naughton of Bloomberg News and by Tom Krisher of The Associated Press.