DETROIT — The leader of Ford Motor Co. says the company has devised a way to shift U.S. production of its popular F-150 pickup truck to the United States from Mexico in response to President Donald Trump’s frequent criticism of the company.
“The profitability of the F-150 is so critical to the Ford business, that we took the decision to bring some assembly back to the United States,” CEO Jim Hackett said in an interview, “At the same time, we need to continue to invest in manufacturing, especially high-quality technology solutions, in Mexico. We’re maintaining that.”
Ford announced Sunday that it would invest $700 million in a Michigan factory to produce new battery electric and hybrid versions of the truck. The F-150 is the best-selling vehicle in America, and the company expects to sell 750,000 this year.
Ford is not abandoning Mexico entirely, however. It will still import the current F-150 and production of the new versions.
Trump has sharply criticized Ford and other automakers for building vehicles in Mexico. Last week, Trump said Ford had agreed to keep about 1,000 U.S. jobs from going south of the border as part of a larger trade deal involving the European Union.
Hackett said Ford had taken that into account as it considers where to build its next-generation F-150.
“We still look at the trade situation and the impact on our competitiveness,” he said. “We still have lots of options, but we want to make sure we’re making the right strategic decisions on that.”
Even before Trump was elected, Ford made huge changes to its U.S. production. By 2020, the company expects to ship 80 percent of its vehicles from plants in the United States, compared with just 15 percent when Jim Hackett became CEO in May.
Now, Ford’s cutting costs to drive down its U.S. manufacturing costs. It’s reducing the number of trucks it makes at a plant in Texas; trimming jobs in manufacturing there and at Ford’s headquarters; and trying to phase out powertrains made in China, Mexico and Japan to focus on engines that are made more in the United States.
“On the engineering side, all that work around vehicles and processes allows us to really streamline the production itself,” Hackett said. “So even in continuing to make some F-150s in Mexico, we’ll make more efficient, lower-cost vehicles.”
The biggest increases in Ford manufacturing costs came from labor, he said. He expects labor costs to rise by 6 percent in the United States and a similar amount in Mexico this year.
— Post wires