For the past 25 years, Mazda has been calling Flat Rock, Michigan, home of at least a few of its cars. The plant has allowed the automaker to tailor vehicles to North American tastes and produce closer to where it sells them.
Alas, all good things must come to an end. Mazda just announced its departure from the plant as it restructures its production plans.
Mazda built its Mazda6 midsize sedan in the Flat Rock plant called AutoAlliance International, co-owned with Ford. Ford also produced the Mustang there concurrently. Both automakers started using the plant jointly in 1987 to build the Mazda MX-6 and the Ford Probe. Ford divested itself of Mazda after crisis struck the Blue Oval automaker in 2008. But unlike most of its brand purging—which included saying sayonara to the likes of Jaguar, Land Rover, Aston Martin, and Volvo, among others—Ford kept its AutoAlliance partnership up with Mazda, continuing to co-produce cars.
The North American Mazda6 differed from the international version, both longer and wider than the overseas variant. However, with the impending redesign of the car, Mazda is reunifying the two vehicles to a common shape and size. With relatively paltry sales compared to the midsize segment’s frontrunners, Mazda didn’t have a need to keep producing a similar vehicle in two different factories.
But the Flat Rock factory won’t go underutilized. Ford is planning to invest $550 million in the factory to hire on 1,200 new workers to join the existing 1,700 for production of the 2013 Ford Fusion. It’s moving from its current Mexico location to satisfy concessions Ford CEO Alan Mulally made with the United Auto Workers in 2007 and 2009.
No announcement has been made as to whether or not Mazda plans to keep its stake in the factory, but it might be wise to do so. Japan is proving to be an increasingly more expensive place to produce a car, and Mazda is shifting production of its subcompact Mazda2 and compact Mazda3 to Salamanca, Mexico.
Source: Detroit News