Ford, SK to invest $15.4 billion, create 11,000 jobs in big electric vehicle push

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DETROIT (REUTERS) - Ford Motor and its South Korean battery partner SK Innovation will invest US$11.4 billion (S$15.4 billion) to build an electric F-150 assembly plant, and three battery plants in the United States, accelerating the No. 2 US automaker's push into electric vehicles.

Ford also said on Monday (Sept 27) it now expects to have 40 per cent to 50 per cent of its global vehicle volume to be all-electric by 2030, up from its prior forecast of 40 per cent.

The companies intend to create nearly 11,000 jobs by opening assembly and battery plants in Stanton, Tennessee, and two additional battery factories in Glendale, Kentucky, as part of Ford's previously announced plan to spend more than US$30 billion through 2030 on electrification, Ford said. Plants on both sites will open in 2025.

Monday's announcement is the biggest single manufacturing investment in Ford's 118-year history.

The Tennessee assembly and battery complex will be about three times the size of Ford's sprawling, century-old Rouge manufacturing complex in Dearborn, Michigan, Ford North American chief operating officer Lisa Drake told Reuters in an interview. She emphasised there will be room to expand on that site.

"For us, this is a very transformative point where we are putting our capital in place now in a very big way to lead the transition to EVs," Ms Drake said.

Ford's portion of the investment is US$7 billion, with SK covering the rest. The companies will invest US$5.8 billion in Kentucky, and US$5.6 billion in Tennessee.

Ford, which plans to launch the electric F-150 Lightning pickup truck next spring, has moved more aggressively to roll out its EV strategy under Jim Farley, who took over as chief executive in October 2020. Earlier in September, Ford doubled planned production capacity in Dearborn, Michigan, for the F-150 Lightning to 80,000 annually due to strong pre-launch demand for the electric pickup.

Ford and other automakers are pushing hard to prepare for the rollout of EVs as countries and regions like China and Europe seek greater reduction of vehicle emissions.

The planned lithium-ion battery plants build on a memorandum of understanding announced by Ford and SK in May. The battery plants will be jointly owned with SK and have a combined annual capacity of 129 gigawatt-hours (GWh) when fully operational, more than double the level outlined in May, Ms Drake said. The new capacity would be enough to power more than 1 million EVs.

Ford previously said its global EV plan calls for at least 240 GWh of battery cell capacity by 2030, equal to about 10 plants that will be placed in North America, Europe and China. SK has said it aims to ramp up annual global battery capacity to more than 200 GWh in 2025.

Monday's announcement builds on Ford's deal last week to partner with Redwood Materials to form a circular supply chain for EV batteries, from raw materials to recycling. Redwood will be located at Ford's Tennessee site.

Also on Monday, Ford said it will separately spend US$525 million over the next five years to fund job training and career readiness initiatives for US auto technicians to help prepare for the shift to EVs. That programme begins in Texas, where Ford is spending US$90 million alone.

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