Detroit, Michigan - Ford said Tuesday it will produce its next generation Focus compact car in China instead of Mexico and that most of the Focus sold in the United States after the middle of 2019 will come from China.
The Dearborn automaker said production of the next-generation Focus will begin in the second half of 2019, with most new North American Focus models coming from China initially and additional variants coming later from Europe.
The decision comes as car sales continue to fall in the U.S. and as uncertainty grows over the automotive industry in Mexico with negotiations on restructuring the North American Free Trade Agreement set to begin later this year.
Initially, Ford said it would build a new $1.6 billion plant in San Luis Potosi, Mexico and create 2,800 jobs. That decision came under intense political scrutiny from then presidential candidate Donald Trump, who touted American jobs and vowed to force auto makers to bring more jobs back to the U.S.
At the start of this year, with industry sales of cars falling, Ford canceled the plan to build a new plant in Mexico and said, instead, it would build the next-generation Focus at its existing plant in Hermosillo, Mexico.
Now, Ford says it will save a total of $1 billion in investment costs by building the Focus in China and cancelling plans to build the Focus in Mexico.
The automaker said the decision is unrelated to the potential outcome of the renegotiation of NAFTA. "We support NAFTA modernization. This is a business decision to improve profitability and deliver even better small cars to customers in a way that makes business sense," Ford said in a statement.
When asked about the potential political blowback from Tuesday's China announcement, Joe Hinrichs, the company's president for global operations, declined to answer directly. Instead, he emphasized the $12 billion the company plowed into U.S. factories and 28,000 new U.S. jobs in the last five years.Get the full story at freep.com.