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Manufacture This

The blog of the Alliance for American Manufacturing

Ford invests in autonomous vehicles made in America.

“Things are changing. That’s absolutely the bottom line in the auto industry,” said Ford’s Vice President of U.S. Government Relations Curt Magleby this past Thursday.

Ford and dozens of other auto manufacturers are exhibiting the latest in automotive technology at the Washington Auto Show in D.C. until Feb. 4. Among these manufacturers, Ford distinguishes itself in its commitment to keeping the future of auto manufacturing in America. 

This past December, Ford announced that it will invest $900 million into their Flat Rock, Mich., assembly plant to produce autonomous vehicles, creating 850 new jobs — a crucial step into the future of auto manufacturing.

“You’ll hear a lot about the [Silicon] Valley startups, and they’re doing some fabulous work, but the U.S. auto manufacturers, the OEMs [Original Equipment Manufacturers], are the leaders,” said Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder at the Washington Auto Show on Jan. 25.

Thanks to a long history of manufacturing innovation, Michigan, where Ford is headquartered, has become an epicenter for autonomous vehicle research and development, hosting seven global or North American R&D headquarters and 27 assembly plants.

Michigan’s Mcity, the 32-acre autonomous vehicle testing ground at the University of Michigan that opened in 2015, is set to be eclipsed by the 500-acre American Center for Mobility (ACM) in Ypsilanti Township, Mich.

As automakers look to the future of mobility, the future of the assembly line is also evolving.

Though some worry that automation will extinguish the need for factory workers, skilled workers are in demand and will continue to be, Magleby said in an interview at the auto show.

“We don’t fear the future in terms of automation,” he said. “It’s not going to take the workers away. It’s going to change the role … Together, we need to make sure that our workers, our education system are preparing for the future.”

Around the country, advanced manufacturing training centers are emerging to offer this education, encouraged by industry and education partnerships like that of Mcity and ACM.

For example: Washtenaw Community College, located less than a 30-minute drive from both ACM and Mcity, recently launched specialized training for the autonomous vehicle workforce.

“There’s a bright future for manufacturers in terms of the industry because they’re being proactive. They’re not being reactive,” said Gov. Snyder. “In the old days, they were reactive to a lot of the trends affecting them. Now they’re helping lead this trend.”

Learn more about how Ford is leading the mobility revolution in America by listening to his conversation with Scott Paul, AAM’s president, or watch a video of their discussion at the Washington Auto Show below.