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Dimming electric vehicle market may delay start of full production at Ford’s new West Tenn. plant

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Dimming electric vehicle market may delay start of full production at Ford’s new West Tenn. plant

Jun 13, 2024 | 6:00 am ET
By Sam Stockard
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Dimming electric vehicle market may delay start of full production at Ford’s new West Tenn. plant
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The Ford 150 Lightning photographed at Town and Country Ford in Madison, Tenn. Photo John Partipilo.

UPDATE: This article has been updated to more closely reflect a delay in the start of deliveries of the Ford electric truck from a new plant in West Tennessee.

Slowing demand for Ford’s F-150 Lightning electric pickup truck is delaying the start of full production at the company’s new West Tennessee factory and pushing vehicle deliveries to dealers until early 2026, according to the state senator representing the community home to the new facility.

State Sen. Page Walley, a Savannah Republican, told the Lookout his understanding is that full production of the truck at the BlueOval City campus in Stanton was pushed back earlier this year by nine months from its initially scheduled full production start date.

Based on “what’s happening, with (Ford’s) read on the economy,” the company might need “a little bit longer runway” before full production takes off, Walley said. 

When Ford made the BlueOval City announcement in 2021, the Michigan automaker said it would start production in 2025. While hiring and work will begin next year, the first electric pickup trucks aren’t expected to be delivered to dealers until 2026, which the auto giant said is “on track,” creating a delay from midsummer of a matter of weeks.

Clay Bright, chairman of the state’s megasite authority, said this week that Ford’s time frame “slid some,” but he didn’t think work was ever scheduled to start until the latter part of 2025, anyway. He added that the automaker is committed to finishing the plant, but “we really won’t know if they’re serious until they start hiring their staff that has to operate the facilities.” 

Early this year, Ford announced the demand for electric vehicles had softened, forcing it to change some of its plans. It is delaying the start of electric vehicle production at its Oakville, Ontario plant from 2025 to 2027. The company still went through with retooling at the Ontario facility to produce electric vehicles. In Kentucky, the company put on hold a second battery plant. Ford CFO John Lawler said the decision was part of a $12 billion capital spending freeze as the company’s electric vehicle unit was expected to lose $1.3 billion in 2023.

Lawmakers are heavily invested in Ford’s success

Dimming electric vehicle market may delay start of full production at Ford’s new West Tenn. plant
Republican state Sen. Page Walley of Savannah.  (Photo: Tennessee General Assembly)

Bright said the auto market has struggled with “uncertainty,” especially with the technology and demand for electric vehicles.

“It’s new, and, as you would expect, it’s kind of shaking itself out a little bit,” Bright said.

Tennessee lawmakers overwhelmingly approved nearly $1 billion for the $5.6 billion project three years ago as Ford promised to create 5,800 jobs

Walley said, however, he isn’t concerned about the state losing money amid Ford’s slowdown because of a “clawback” provision that would enable Tennessee to reclaim funds if the automaker fails to follow through on its investment and hiring promise.

“That’s kind of our security in this,” Walley said.

Ford is confident it will meet the requirements of a state incentive package, a spokesperson said. 

The construction site at the Memphis megasite looks comparable to downtown Nashville with multiple cranes visible from I-40 and production buildings already “under roof,” according to Walley. 

The state is set to hold a ceremonial ribbon cutting there Friday for a $60 million Tennessee College of Applied Technology that will train Ford workers and provide education for the region.

Along with Ford and SK Innovation, the Tennessee Economic and Community Development Department has announced three Magna projects and an Avancez Assembly project that will supply the automaker.

Magna said it would invest more than $790 million to build two supply facilities at BlueOval, in addition to a stamping and assembly facility in Lawrenceburg in southern Middle Tennessee. Magna’s BlueOval plants will supply Ford with battery enclosures, truck frames and seats. Combined, the three will create 1,300 jobs in the state.

Avancez, meanwhile, is spending $54 million to expand its assembly operations and open a facility at BlueOval, creating 501 jobs specializing in modular assembly, sequencing and supply chain operations.