Ford, on heels of criticism over Ohio investments, touts commitment to U.S. production and workers

Jordyn Grzelewski
The Detroit News

Ford Motor Co., citing data released Friday showing it made nearly 200,000 more vehicles in the U.S. than any other automaker in 2020, is touting its commitment to domestic vehicle production and to U.S. workers.

The Dearborn automaker cited data from IHS Markit, a research and analytics firm that tracks the automotive industry, affirming Ford's status as the top employer of U.S. autoworkers and leading manufacturer of U.S.-built vehicles. 

The release follows criticism from the United Auto Workers questioning Ford's commitment to an assembly plant in northeast Ohio. As for the timing on the heels of the UAW dust-up, Ford officials noted the data is put out annually around this time and said the company remains "committed" to Ohio.

Rodney Washington, works on the door line in the all-new body shop at Ford's Chicago Assembly Plant.

More than 82% of Ford vehicle sold in the U.S. in 2020 were assembled in the U.S., according to IHS Markit data. That's up from 75% in 2019. It's also a higher percentage than any other automaker, according to IHS. 

The Dearborn automaker assembled 1.7 million vehicles in the U.S. last year, 188,000 units more than any of its competitors. IHS Markit confirmed the accuracy of the data shared by Ford, but declined to share similar data on competing automakers.

Meanwhile, Ford reported based on the data that it exported more than 280,000 U.S.-made vehicles to foreign markets and said that one in every six vehicles it assembles in the U.S. is exported.

Ford also frequently touts its status as the largest employer of UAW members, with more than 50,000 hourly autoworkers on its payroll.

The company also highighted its commitment to invest $6 billion in its U.S. plants and create or retain 8,500 hourly jobs in the country as part of its current four-year contract with the UAW, which was ratified in 2019. To date, Ford has announced $2 billion worth of investments in the U.S. that would add about 3,000 hourly jobs and retain hundreds more.

About 2,100 of those positions are in place at Ford's Michigan Assembly Plant in Wayne, which builds the Ranger pickup and is slated to launch production of the new Bronco SUV this summer. Ford has invested about $750 million there.

Meanwhile, the automaker last year announced a $700 million investment at its historic Rouge complex in Dearborn to support production of the 2021 F-150 and the forthcoming battery-electric version of the best-selling truck. The automaker is building an electric vehicle manufacturing facility at the site, which will create about 500 jobs.

And a $150 million investment is planned for Ford's Van Dyke Transmission Plant in Sterling Heights to add production of e-motors and e-transaxles for future electric vehicles, including the electric F-150. That investment will help retain about 225 jobs, according to the automaker.

Kansas City Assembly Plant in Missouri received more than $400 million and added 150 jobs tied to the 2021 F-150 and the forthcoming electric version of the automaker's Transit cargo van.

"Clearly the data show how committed we are to American manufacturing," said Kumar Galhotra, president of the Americas and International Markets Group for Ford. Noting the $6 billion commitment in the Ford-UAW contract, he said the automaker is "on track to deliver on all of that."

As for Ohio, Galhotra said: "We remain committed to Ohio, and we remain committed to our commitment to the UAW, the $6 billion and creating or retaining 8,500 jobs."

"Overall," he added, "I feel we have an excellent relationship with the UAW and continue to work with them."

The criticism surrounds plans for Ford's Ohio Assembly Plant in Avon Lake, a northeast Ohio city outside of Cleveland. In a March 12 letter, Gerald Kariem, a UAW vice president and head of the union's Ford department, blasted Ford for reneging on a commitment to invest $900 million in the plant and for moving production of a new, still-unnamed electric vehicle to Mexico.

"Unfortunately, Ford Motor Company has decided it will not honor its promise to add a new product to OHAP and, instead, it intends to build the next-generation vehicle in Mexico," Kariem wrote in the letter to UAW Local 2000. "We 100% reject the company’s decision to put corporate greed and more potential profits over American jobs and the future of our members. We expect the company to honor its contractual commitments to this membership and when it fails to do so we will take action."

The tension in part reflects anxiety about union-represented manufacturing jobs in northeast Ohio, which two years ago suffered the blow of General Motors Co. shuttering its Lordstown Assembly plant near Youngstown. The issue has caught the attention of elected officials, including U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, a Cleveland Democrat.

Meanwhile, Ford responded to the UAW criticism by noting that it has invested more than $185 million and created or retained more than 100 jobs at Ohio Assembly Plant since 2019 to support expanded production of the Super Duty F-Series trucks that are made there.

"The Super Duty demand has been incredibly high," Galhotra said Friday. "So, we needed to increase capacity on Super Duty, and the most obvious way to do it is by increasing capacity in Ohio. ... Our manufacturing footprint decisions are driven by consumer needs in the marketplace — so that was what we needed to do in Ohio."

Twitter: @JGrzelewski