Friday, December 18, 2009

Ford to Build New Battery Plant in Michigan

There has been a slew of good automotive news the past couple of days. After the legislature passed additonal battery tax credits yesterday, Ford has decided to build its new lithium ion battery here.
Ford Chairman Bill Ford told Local 4's Guy Gordon Friday afternoon that his company has chosen Michigan as the production site for the company's new lithium ion battery systems.

The battery pack will power Ford's new plug-in hybrids and battery electric vehicles, which will be introduced over the next several years.

It's a huge coup for the state of Michigan as it battles to retain its identity as the world's motor capital.

And although tax credits have been criticized a great deal by the right in the latest Rovian attack-their-strengths tactic - these credits landed us the facility over Kentucky. 1000 jobs are attached to the project. Sorry, Rick, this is the game we have to play for the time being.

More good news - yesterday, Chrysler announced that they would build their "green" engine in Dundee, creating 155 jobs in Fiat's first major North American investment. There was a time when it looked like Chrysler wouldn't make it, but company officials have indicated that they are in this for the long haul.

Production on the new fuel-efficient engines, which feature Fiat’s MultiAir technology that burns gasoline more efficiently while enhancing performance, will begin in the fourth quarter of 2010, Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne said during a press event at the company’s Auburn Hills headquarters.

The investment, Fiat’s first in Michigan and the U.S. since taking a 20% stake in Chrysler Group LLC, will expand the 4-year-old plant where Chrysler has made 2.0- and 2.4-liter 4-cylinder engines under a now dissolved partnership with Mitsubishi and Hyundai.

And finally, auto analyst Erich Merkle and the Center for Automotive Research have predicted a healthy uptick in auto sales for 2010, citing growing consumer confidence as unemployment starts to ease up.

And when labor markets stabilize, "that's when we start to hit our turn in terms of auto sales, because the people that are working have been holding off on a buying a new car. But when they start to feel more comfortable in their jobs and they're starting to see some expansion and some renewed activity, then they start going out and they start looking to make that purchase, like a new car," he said.

Michigan as a state -- and West Michigan as a region -- will see a benefit from that, said Merkle, who was speaking at an industry outlook conference put on by BDO Seidman and hosted by Grand Valley State University.

Hang in there, people. It really is starting to look better all the time. Doesn't mean we can put all our eggs in the automotive basket again, but if this industry sees revitalization (and it will) and the efforts of our diversification pay off (and they will), we are going to be better than OK.

Have a little patience. We are on our way back.