Ford said on Monday that it was suspending construction of a Michigan battery factory for electric vehicles. The automaker didn’t specify its exact reasons for the shutdown as United Auto Workers (UAW) strikes continue. However, it stated (via The New York Times) that it was “pausing work and limiting spending on construction on the Marshall project until we’re confident about our ability to competitively operate the plant.”
The factory was established earlier this year to produce battery tech licensed from China’s Contemporary Amperex Technology Co (CATL). It isn’t yet clear if the suspension is temporary or permanent.
The news came ahead of President Biden’s trip to Michigan on Tuesday to protest alongside picketing workers. Ford didn’t state whether its decision was related to the strikes. The UAW’s walkout against the Big Three automakers expanded to 38 locations in 20 states last week.
The $3.5 billion factory, scheduled to open in 2026, is slated to produce lithium-iron-phosphate batteries for EVs — supplying jobs for at least 2,500 autoworkers and spurring domestic EV battery production. However, the project has been flanked by uncertainty as the Biden Administration weighs regulations that could prevent US companies from working with select Chinese businesses.
UAW PRESIDENT SHAWN FAIN STATEMENT ON FORD’S ANNOUNCEMENT TO PAUSE CONSTRUCTION ON MARSHALL EV BATTERY PLANT:
“This is a shameful, barely-veiled threat by Ford to cut jobs. Closing 65 plants over the last 20 years wasn’t enough for the Big Three, now they want to threaten us…
— UAW (@UAW) September 25, 2023
The UAW has previously given Ford credit for bringing more concessions to the negotiating table during the strike than GM or Stellantis, going as far as sparing Ford from the recent walkout expansions. The union is asking for pay raises, a shorter workweek, protection against inflation and other worker concessions. In an interview this month, Ford CEO Jim Farley claimed meeting the union’s demands “would force Ford to scrap its investments in electric vehicles.”
UAW President Shawn Fain described Ford’s closure as “a shameful, barely-veiled threat by Ford to cut jobs.” He posted on X (formerly Twitter) on Monday, “Closing 65 plants over the last 20 years wasn’t enough for the Big Three, now they want to threaten us with closing plants that aren’t even open yet. We are simply asking for a just transition to electric vehicles and Ford is instead doubling down on their race to the bottom.”