Under pressure from the United States government, Ford scrapped its plans to build a $1 billion plant in Mexico that would’ve produced its Focus compact car. But in a move that’s likely to vex the government, the automaker has decided to relocate its production to China in 2019.
Ford currently builds the Focus at its factory in Wayne, Michigan, and in facilities in Germany and China. The automaker had originally planned to shift the car’s production from Michigan to Mexico in order to pay lower labor costs.
In January, however, Ford announced that it had nixed the project after facing stiff criticism from the US government, who was pushing manufacturers to keep jobs in the U.S.
Ford face threats of tariffs on Mexican-made Ford vehicles. On Tuesday, Ford announced it will shift its Michigan production of the Focus to China.
According to Bloomberg, the automaker plans to then sell those made-in-China vehicles to the U.S. market. Once this transition is completed, the Focus will reportedly be the biggest automotive export ever from China to the U.S.
Ford cited lower costs as the reason to outsource production to China. It’s estimated that he company will save $1 billion by building the Focus in China instead of Mexico.
The savings would be so significant that even if Congress slapped tariffs on foreign-made imports, the change would still make financial sense.
Ford stressed that no American jobs would be lost in the China move. Starting in late 2018, its Michigan plant will simply focus on making bigger, more profitable vehicles, including the Ranger midsize pickup truck.
The automaker also announced on Tuesday that it will invest $900 million in a Kentucky factory to build big SUVs, like the Lincoln Navigator, which would secure 1,000 jobs at the plant.