It's not every day one of the Big 3 decides to take work it contracted to a foreign supplier and bring it in house back in Detroit.
It's a highly unusual, and highly welcome in Detroit where Ford is adding 160 workers at two of its plants in Southeastern Michigan. The people Ford hires will build battery packs and electric transmissions for Ford's next generation of hybrid electric vehicles. It's work Ford used to contract out to firms in Japan and Mexico.
As you can imagine, Ford executives are proud to say they are insourcing jobs while the rank and file are happy to see the investment in the Detroit area. As one worker at Ford's Rawsonville plant said to me, "We can do the work just as well as anyone overseas.” He's right. But then again, the issue of insourcing jobs is not about the quality of the work done in the U.S., it's whether or not it makes sense to the bottom line.
In this case it does.
Ford is making Southeastern Michigan a hub for its electric vehicle programs. So instead of hiring foreign firms and having them use foreign workers, Ford is adding it's own workers and engineers (50 will be hired as part of this investment). Ford, like GM, has come to the conclusion it should do its electric batteries and many of the components in house.
But the question remains, can Detroit compete when it comes to electric vehicles? Most in the industry, including many outside of the Big 3, believe the domestic automakers are finally seeing the light and making the right investments. Will they pay off and make the big 3 leaders in electric cars? It's too early to say. Much of that will depend on factors that go beyond the research and development and include factors like styling and marketing.
Still, Ford making Southeastern Michigan a hub of vehicle electrification is encouraging on a number of fronts.