Ford doesn't plan to build the Explorer and Aviator EVs alongside their gasoline-powered counterparts in Chicago because that plant is near capacity with no room for expansion. A new EV assembly plant that will be part of the massive Blue Oval City complex Ford is building in Tennessee will make a next-generation F-Series product and won't come online until 2025.
Ford could consider building the electric crossovers in Ohio, where it previously planned to do so.
Ohio Assembly, west of Cleveland, builds some larger Super Duty trucks and E-Series vans. Ford in its 2019 contract with the UAW promised the plant would receive a $900 million investment, including a "next-generation product" in 2023, which Automotive News reported were the Explorer and Aviator EVs.
Ford shifted those plans to Mexico in 2019, prompting fiery criticism from then-UAW Vice President Gerald Kariem. The automaker said it would keep its commitment to the Ohio plant by boosting Super Duty production there.
Should Ford flip-flop again, Drake said it would need to spend big to convert the plant for EVs and boost its annual capacity from just 60,000 today. "Those are not insurmountable challenges," she said.
Another U.S. option is the underutilized Mustang plant in Flat Rock, Mich. Ford has capacity to build 260,000 vehicles a year there, LMC says, but runs it on only one daily shift. Michigan politicians are working on legislation to attract major investments after the state failed to make a serious bid for Blue Oval City.
Picking either Flat Rock or Ohio Assembly would let buyers of those vehicles qualify for up to $4,500 in extra government tax credits, should the Biden administration's proposed legislation make it through Congress.
"Losing out on that extra couple of thousand dollars per vehicle could hurt," Drake said. "It's part of the conversation for sure."