DETROIT, April 27 (Reuters) - Ford Motor Co on Tuesday took a fresh step toward taking control of electric vehicle battery design and production, saying it would establish a Southeast Michigan center to research and build prototype lithium ion and solid-state cells.
Ford Chief Executive Jim Farley signaled last November that the Dearborn, Mich.-based automaker was considering designing and producing its own batteries, following rivals Tesla Inc and General Motors Co <GM.N, which have taken control of their battery production, working with partners.
Ford officials did not confirm a battery production plan, but left the door open for such a move.
“We now see the market is going to develop very quickly and we will have sufficient scale to justify greater levels of integration,” Ford’s chief product platforms and operations officer, Hau Thai-Tang, said during a conference call.
The supply chain disruptions caused by the pandemic and the more recent shortages of semiconductors have “heightened the importance of controlling the supply chain,” Thai-Tang said.
Ford expects to continue working with battery makers, including South Korea’s SK Innovation Co, a supplier for Ford’s electric F-150 pickup and other models, Thai-Tang said. But the company wants “flexibility and optionality to eventually vertically integrate.”
Ford plans to invest $185 million in battery development and prototype manufacturing operations in southeast Michigan in an operation with 150 employees to be called Ford Ion Park, the company said.
Reporting By Joe White; Editing by Dan Grebler