Ford’s Tenn., Ky. battery plants are only the start

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. — The $11.4 billion that Ford Motor Co. and a partner are investing in two new manufacturing campuses in Tennessee and Kentucky show that the automaker is committed to electrifying its vehicle lineup, but it likely will need even more battery plants than that to meet its goals, Executive Chair Bill Ford said Tuesday.

Ford said the company spoke with “virtually every state east of the Mississippi” to locate the electric pickup plant and three new battery plants it’s planning to open, and that it intends to continue investing in the U.S.

The sites will create nearly 11,000 jobs by 2026, Ford said. Ford is committing $7 billion toward the projects, with $4.4 billion coming from Korean battery maker SK Innovation.

“Will we need future sites as we develop this industry? Probably,” Ford told reporters after the company detailed plans for a 3,600-acre complex called Blue Oval City in western Tennessee. “In fact, I would say almost for sure.”

Ford has vowed to spend $30 billion on electrification through 2025, and says that by 2030, 40 to 50 percent of its global fleet will be fully electric. The Tennessee and Kentucky sites will be able to supply batteries for roughly 1 million vehicles a year, or about half of what Ford would need to reach its 2030 target based on current sales volume.

Ford said the automaker is better positioned now to lead in the EV era than earlier in the decade when it invested heavily in regulatory-driven products such as the Focus Electric and C-Max hybrid that are no longer in production. Its Mustang Mach-E electric crossover has taken share from Tesla, and it plans to sell the battery-powered F-150 Lightning starting next year.

The Tennessee site will build a next-generation electric version of Ford’s F-Series pickups, the nation’s top-selling nameplate.

“Technology has progressed to the point where mass adoption is going to be very likely,” Ford said. “It’s really a confluence of technology and also customer awareness. There’s great pull from Mach-E and Lightning from customers. Are there lots of questions we’re going to have to answer along the way? Of course, but it’s a huge stake in the ground for what we believe will be the future, and we want to make sure we’re at the forefront of that future.”

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