Right after Mazda announced that it was shacking up with Fiat, it is announcing that it will be divorcing Ford—at least its production facilities, anyway.
Mazda will be leaving the Flat Rock plant in Michigan, as it plans to move production back to Japan and Mexico. It builds the Mazda6 sedan in Flat Rock right now, but by summertime it will be built back in Japan. And a new plant in Mexico will build the Mazda2 and Mazda3 compacts, starting in 2013.
Flat Rock has a storied history with the Mazda brand. Tucked away in the corner of Michigan, the plant started off as a Ford facility in 1972 as the Michigan Casting Center; at one time, it was the most advanced engine casting plant in the world. Declining sales of V-8s and Ford’s perennial labor disputes closed the plant after less than a decade. It would remain closed for 6 years until Mazda bought it in 1987—revived as Mazda Motor Manufacturing USA, the plant churned out the 626 and B-Series pickup, as well as more sporting MX-6 and Ford Probe coupes.
Ford took over 50 percent of the plant in 1992, renaming the entire operation AutoAlliance International. Here, it built the Mercury Cougar, and the legendary Mazda RX-7, before moving onto an equally legendary sports car: the Ford Mustang, which was moved to Flat Rock in 2005.
Mazda6 sales have never done very well in this country—always behind the Kia Optima and the Hyundai Sonata, to say nothing of the juggernaut Camry/Accord combination. In April, Mazda sold 3,780 6s. By contrast, Honda sold 35,385 Accords, a car that’s been on sale just as long as the big Mazda sedan.
Mazda may still own 50 percent of Flat Rock, but for the first time since 1987, no Japanese branded cars will be built there—Ford is paving the way for the very-much-anticipated 2013 Fusion, in addition to its current home in Hermosillo, Mexico. Domestic patriotism aside, it’s good to see the void at Flat Rock now being filled.
Source: The Detroit News