Ford is willing to work with Donald Trump to keep jobs in the U.S. if the president-elect puts the right policies in place, the automaker's chief executive officer said.
"We will be very clear in the things we'd like to see," Mark Fields said in an exclusive interview at Bloomberg offices in Southfield, Michigan. "We'll continue to advocate for currency-manipulation rules to promote free and fair trade. One of our priorities is making sure fuel-economy standards reflect market realities, tax reform in general we would be very supportive of, and the safe deployment of autonomous vehicles."
On the campaign trail, Ford was a favorite target of Trump, who lambasted the company for producing cars south of the border. Ford tried to make peace last month when Executive Chairman Bill Ford called the president-elect to let him know the automaker no longer planned to move production of a Lincoln sport-utility vehicle to Mexico from a plant in Kentucky. Ford still plans to move its Focus compact and C-Max hybrid to Mexico from a Michigan factory, but the automaker has said it believes it can work with the new president to encourage economic growth in the U.S.
During his campaign, Trump threatened to slap a 35 percent tariff on cars Ford builds in Mexico and ships back to the U.S. He made a similar threat against Carrier after the unit of United Technologies Corp. said it was moving production to Mexico and cutting 1,400 jobs in Indiana. Instead, Trump and Carrier unveiled a deal Thursday in which the maker of furnaces and air-conditioners will get $7 million in state incentives to keep the work in Indiana. About 1,100 Carrier employees in the Indianapolis area will still lose their jobs despite the agreement.
Ford received no incentives for keeping Lincoln MKC production in Kentucky, but the automaker never planned to close that Louisville plant, which also builds the Escape SUV that outsells the Lincoln version by 12-to-1. Ford already makes the Lincoln MKZ sedan and the Fusion family car in Mexico. It's building a $1.6 billion new small-car factory in the Mexican state of San Luis Potosi, which will create 2,800 jobs there by 2020.
Ford has said it is just the fifth-largest producer of vehicles in Mexico while it's the top automotive manufacturer in the U.S. Ford said it has added nearly 28,000 jobs in the U.S. over the last five years. Ford employs 85,000 workers in the U.S. and 8,800 in Mexico.
Since 2010, nine global automakers, including General Motors, Ford and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, have announced investments of more than $24 billion in Mexico, where wages are 80 percent lower than in the U.S. Annual auto output in Mexico may more than double this decade, from 2 million to 5 million vehicles, according to the Center for Automotive Research in Ann Arbor, Michigan.
Fields has undertaken an expensive effort to transform Ford into a mobility company that can take on upstarts such as Uber Technologies and Google. The cost of that conversion is causing profits to fall this year and next. The carmaker has promised to put 100,000 robot taxis -- without steering wheel, gas or brake pedals -- on the road in five years. It's also investing $4.5 billion to convert 40 percent of its lineup to electrified vehicles by 2020 and is offering bike sharing and a commuter van service in San Francisco.
The second-largest U.S. automaker has cut profit forecasts twice in the last three months. In September, Ford reduced its 2016 profit prediction by $600 million, to $10.2 billion from at least $10.8 billion, due to rising recall costs. Last month, it trimmed the 2017 profit outlook for its credit unit by $300 million, to $1.5 billion, because declining auction values for used cars would hurt results. Ford shares fell 12 percent this year through Thursday.