Ford Motor Company revealed plans to move its key autonomous vehicle and electric vehicle business and strategy teams to the city where the company got its start.
Ford is moving the teams to a historic building known as The Factory – a recently refurbished industrial complex with a rich 110-year history – in Detroit’s Corktown neighbourhood. The Motor City location, which will be up and running early next year, will enable Ford teams to immerse themselves in urban mobility challenges and solutions.
“We’re excited to choose this inspirational location in one of Detroit’s resurgent neighbourhoods to accelerate our work on electric and autonomous vehicles,” said Jim Hackett, Ford president and CEO. “This move and our exciting Dearborn campus transformation are important steps as we move toward our aspiration to become the world’s most trusted mobility company – designing smart vehicles for a smart world.”
The Corktown location holds special meaning for Executive Chairman Bill Ford, whose ancestors emigrated from County Cork, Ireland, to the Dearborn, Michigan, area years ago. Corktown, Detroit’s oldest neighbourhood, derives its name from immigrants from County Cork who settled there.
“Returning to Detroit is particularly meaningful, because it is where my great-grandfather originally set out to pursue his passion and where we have always called our home,” said Ford. “We are planting a special piece of our company’s future in one of the city’s great neighbourhoods, because we believe in Detroit, its people and what we can build together.”
The move is more than a relocation – it’s a strategic decision aligned with a mission. The company is committed to helping improve the entire system of transporting people and goods, especially in cities facing major challenges such as congestion, pollution, accidents and other transportation issues that affect everything from productivity to quality of life.
The Corktown relocation means employees will be working in the heart of these challenges, experiencing life firsthand in one of the nation’s burgeoning urban neighbourhoods. More than 220 employees will be working at the new location.
Recognizing the past, embracing the future
The move to Detroit is both a nod toward the past and a bold look forward. It allows Ford to reaffirm its commitment to a city where its journey first began.
“Having these teams together in a dedicated facility in the heart of Detroit is truly a full-circle moment for Ford,” said Jim Farley, Ford executive vice president and president, global markets. “It’s such a conducive environment for sharing ideas, for collaboration, and for accelerating our electric vehicle efforts. We have such a great team, and we’ll be hearing more from them in the coming months.”
Autonomous, electric and beyond
The team in Corktown will be led by Sherif Marakby, Ford vice president of autonomous vehicles and electrification. Marakby is a Ford veteran who first joined the company in 1990, leaving briefly for a stint in Silicon Valley.
Ford is focused on driving its electric vehicle business forward, both with hybrid vehicles and full battery-electric vehicles with research led by Ford’s Team Edison. The team is working to accelerate both the development and adoption of electric vehicles.
Team Edison also is focused on fostering partnerships with other companies to deliver smart solutions, following Ford’s global lead. Ford recently created an electric vehicle partnership with Zotye, creating Zotye Ford Automobile Co., a 50-50 joint venture that will offer a range of stylish and affordable electric vehicles for consumers in China.
Ford already has a variety of active partnerships related to the future of mobility. With Ford’s $1 billion investment in Argo AI, the company is advancing autonomous vehicle development by combining its autonomous vehicle expertise with Argo AI’s robotics experience and startup speed on artificial intelligence software.
Ford’s autonomous vehicle business is built around deploying self-driving vehicles in partnership with leading companies that serve the movement of both people and goods. Working with these partners, such as Lyft and Domino’s Pizza, Ford is conducting research and building out the infrastructure that will help in determining the design of the self-driving vehicle and the customer experience it will enable.
Planned for production beginning in 2021, Ford’s first autonomous vehicle is an all-new hybrid-electric vehicle with self-driving capability. It will be optimized to meet the needs of Ford’s partners to enhance and grow their business operations – and to deliver the best experience for the people they serve. Key factors in design and performance are:
- Commercial-grade quality for lower cost of ownership and improved durability to operate in tough urban environments
- Hybrid-electric powertrain to help reduce emissions and achieve maximum mileage to keep the self-driving vehicle on the road longer
- Purposely designed for ride-hailing and delivery customer needs
- Dependable from the outset, integrated for safety by the teams that are engineering, testing and ultimately building Ford’s self-driving vehicles
Building with a storied history
Located at 1907 Michigan Avenue, the brick building complex that will house Ford’s autonomous and electric vehicle teams was constructed in 1907, the year planning began on the Ford Model T at the nearby Piquette Avenue plant.
The 45,000-square-foot building also has been home to the Chicago Hosiery and Detroit-Alaska Knitting Mills factories. It sits across from the site of historic Tiger Stadium.
Most recently, The Factory has served as headquarters for Buhl Sport Detroit and Brothers Tuning Detroit, and has undergone extensive renovations. The Factory will continue to be the headquarters for both companies, which will be Ford Land tenants.
With its high ceilings, exposed brick, hardwood floors and 9,000-square-foot garage, the space will afford employees both the collaborative openness of a modern workspace and the industrial authenticity of a turn-of-the-century manufacturing facility.