Ford Ramps Up EV Production In North America, Unveils Latitude AI

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On March 2, Ford unveiled a new self-driving system subsidiary, Latitude AI

Ford has announced that it will increase the production of electric vehicles in its manufacturing plants across North America to meet growing demand in the United States. The Dearborn, Michigan-based automaker has set the goal of making 210,000 vehicles this year.

The automaker is committed to the production of more E-Transit, F-150 Lightning, and Mach-E electric vehicles at its plants in Kansas City, Detroit, and Cuautitlán, Mexico. In February, Ford’s EV sales jumped by 68%.

Starting from the first week of March 2023, Ford will nearly double its hourly production of Mustang Mach-E at the Mexico plant. This was made possible due to changes made at the plant. Last year, Ford was the second largest EV seller in the United States, thanks to the contribution of the Mustang Mach-E.

A similar effort is on track at the Rogue Electric Vehicle Center in Michigan to triple the production of the F-150 Lightning. The target of the company is to produce 150,000 units of the electric truck by the end of the year.

Ford F-150 Lightning has become the best-selling electric truck in the United States. The company sold 15,617 units in 2022 and has already sold 3,600 units in the first two months of 2023.

“We have had a strong start to 2023 and we are moving to fast-track quality production,” said Kumar Galhotra, President of Ford Blue. “Increasing production will benefit both our business and our customers.”

The Michigan-based automaker will invest $2 billion in three plants across Michigan to enhance the production of the F-150 Lightning. It is estimated that about 3,200 jobs will be added in the process.

The Kansa City Assembly Plant which is in charge of making the E-Transit van will get an additional crew in April. The R-Transit van was the best-selling electric van in America in 2022. Ford wants to increase its annual production of the Transit and E-Transit van to 38,000. To achieve this, the automaker is investing $95 million and increasing manpower by 1,100.

Ford will resume F-150 Lightning production on March 13

Following a battery incident that led to a fire in a holding lot on February 4, Ford suspended the production of the F-150 Lightning. Although the automaker had hinted that it will resume production of the vehicle soon after the incident, it only recently put a date to it.

Ford disclosed to CNBC on March 2, 2023 that it will resume production on March 13. According to the automaker, the timeline will give room for its battery supplier, SK On, to ramp up production and deliver battery packs to the Michigan plant where the truck is made.

“In the weeks ahead, we will continue to apply our learning and work with SK On’s team to ensure we continue delivering high-quality battery packs—down to the battery cells,” Ford disclosed in a statement to CNBC. “As REVC ramps up production, we will continue holding already-produced vehicles while we work through engineering and parts updates.”

In the last week of February, Ford disclosed that SK has resumed battery cell production at a Georgia plant. However, it said the automaker would extend downtime at the Rouge Electric Vehicle Center where the F-150 is produced for another week.

When Ford opened reservations for the F-150 Lightning in May 2021, they received over 200,000 reservations forcing the automaker to temporarily close the process and adjust its production to meet demand.

Many of those that applied for reservation are still waiting for their vehicles. The automaker said the battery issue with the F-150 Lightning and ongoing “execution issues” led to the shrinking of its fourth-quarter earnings. These issues are also blamed for the delays experienced in the fulfillment of reservations.

Months after ditching Argo, Ford launches Latitude AI, an autonomous driving unit

On March 2, Ford unveiled a new self-driving system subsidiary, Latitude AI. This is coming months after the automaker ended a similar joint partnership with Volkswagen called Argo AI. 

Latitude will expand on the automaker’s existing BlueCruise technology that already equips certain models with hands-free driving on highways. The BlueCruise has amassed over 50 million miles of hands-free driving.

Ford rehired about 550 employees of the defunct Argo AI for the new subsidiary. Latitude AI will be led by Sammy Omari, Ford’s executive director of Advanced Driver Assist Systems (ADAS) Technologies. The new subsidiary is headquartered in Pittsburgh with additional engineering hubs in Palo Alto, California, and Dearborn, Michigan.

“We believe automated driving technology will help improve safety while unlocking all-new customer experiences that reduce stress and in the future will help free up a driver’s time to focus on what they choose,” said Omari.

According to Ford, Latitude will reimagine customer experience by allowing them to switch to autonomous driving during stressful or tedious times. The automaker also revealed that on average, drivers in the United States spend close to 100 hours annually sitting in traffic.

“We see automated driving technology as an opportunity to redefine the relationship between people and their vehicles,” said Doug Field, Chief Advanced Product Development and Technology Officer at Ford Motor Company.

Ford disclosed that the 550 employees in Latitude AI have vast experience in automated driving including software development tools and infrastructure as they transition towards ADAS.

“Customers using BlueCruise are already experiencing the benefits of hands-off driving,” Field said. “The deep experience and talent in our Latitude team will help us accelerate the development of all-new automated driving technology—with the goal of not only making travel safer, less stressful, and more enjoyable but ultimately over time giving our customers some of their days back.”


Related: Is the Ford F-150 Lightning worth the money? 

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