Ford may be moving ahead with plans to buy a dilapidated train station in Detroit that could become a hub for the carmaker’s plans to build more electric and self-driving cars.
Ford In The Neighborhood
The Michigan Central Station, a beaux arts-style building in Detroit’s Corktown neighborhood, has stood vacant since 1988. The Ford board of directors was expected to vote on the issue in May.
But that seems more a formality. The fact Ford plans to buy the building – and is also looking into buying properties around the site – is a “huge story around town and also one of its worst-kept secrets,” according to Auto Blog.
The move comes as Ford, and rival automaker GM, seemed prepared to stop making most of the cars they currently make for the North American market.
Giving Up on Cars
Ford announced recently that it plans to produce only two new cars in the coming years – the Mustang and the Focus Active, a hatchback that already debuted in Europe. Instead, the focus will be on trucks, SUVs and crossovers.
GM has moved in the same direction, retooling factories to make more trucks and SUVs, according to CNBC. By 2022, about 73 percent of all vehicles sold in North America are expected to be utility vehicles, according to numbers from forecasting firm LMC Automotive cited by CNBC.
LMC expects American car companies to be at an even higher rate. About 84 percent of GM’s sales volume is expected to be SUVs, crossovers and trucks. LMC projects Ford will be at 90 percent.
Smaller sedans still sell well in Europe for both companies. And both also are moving into electric and self-driving vehicles.
Back to Detroit
Ford apparently plans to make Michigan Central Station the hub for its electric cars and continued experiments in autonomous vehicles.
The move also would return Ford to Detroit, where the car company began. It currently has a suburban headquarters in Dearborn, outside of Detroit. Bill Ford, the company’s executive chairman, said the company wants to put “a special piece of our company’s future in one of the city’s great neighborhoods, because we believe in Detroit,” according to the Detroit Free Press.
“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,” the chairman said.
They already have plans to move about 220 employees into an abandoned hosiery factory near the train depot who will work on electric and autonomous cars. Crain’s Detroit Business also reported that they are in talks with owners of about 50 properties in the Corktown neighborhood.
That’s led many to speculate that the automaker will move a large chunk of its operations into the neighborhood.