How Ford’s big investment in Michigan fits into the bigger picture (ft. Glenn Stevens, MICHAuto)

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News came Wednesday that Ford’s making some big investments in Michigan and Metro Detroit.

With Glenn Stevens of MICHAuto, we talk about not just that news, but the overall picture of mobility, electric vehicles, and automotive in 2022.

We get into the keys Michigan is going to need to compete and win the race high tech talent and a lot more.

Below you will find an automated transcript. There may be errors, and this content was intended to be consumed as audio so important tone and context may be missing from the text. Please double-check with the audio of the podcast before quoting.

Glenn Stevens 0:47
Good to see you, Jer. Thanks for the time today.

Jer Staes 0:49
Yeah, well, I don’t think we could pick a better day considering the news peg that happened. You know, Michigan is getting a huge investment from Ford. We’re looking at 2 billion bucks, 3200 jobs, you’re gonna see investments with 2000 positions at the Rouge electric vehicle center down in Dearborn, the F 150. Lightning Michigan assembly plant in Wayne, Ranger pickup, Flat Rock assembly plant Mustang coupe, Monroe parts and service like, how is this announcement going to impact the overall industry? And how do you read is as a sign

Glenn Stevens 1:22
first, we take a step back and remember that we’ve been doing this for 120 years in Michigan, and Ford has been here a long time as of some of the other companies. So they are well established here. They have a strong manufacturing base, as well as global headquarters in engineering and design. And the key really is making that manufacturing base solid for the future. And that’s what this does. When you look at a reinvestment or investment of this nature, into your existing facilities. That means that they have plans for them to be here for a long time. That’s good for Michigan.

Jer Staes 1:53
Well, electrification is here to stay. Absolutely. And part of that is high tech talent. So what are some of the things that you’re working on to kind of help bolster that?

Glenn Stevens 2:02
So I think what we have to look at is, is that we we have advanced manufacturing, and the shop floor of today is very different. It requires a lot of digital skills. I mean, robots have to be programmed, automated sweepers have to be maintained and programmed to so the shop floor today is very, very critical for tech talent. But when we look at the design, the engineering and the testing of today’s electric vehicles, and where things are going, particularly on the connected and software part of the vehicle, that’s going to require a lot of tech talent for the industry we have and for Michigan to grow in that knowledge tech economy, we need to attract and retain and develop more people like software engineers here. It’s essential to Michigan’s future

Jer Staes 2:41
when software was becoming more and more of a part of ice engines. But when it comes to electric, it’s even more crucial.

Glenn Stevens 2:47
Absolutely, yeah, there’s actually more semiconductors and electronics that drive an electric propulsion system than an internal combustion system. That’s a fact. So that’s important, but the vehicle connectivity, how the vehicle is a software operating platform, how subscription services tie into your vehicle, all that requires coding, development, engineering integration. And that’s really essential for us, for Michigan,

Jer Staes 3:10
when it’s part of what these companies are using to stand out, right? Because I mean, so many of these vehicles, now the quality of vehicles is improved, so much like whatever you spend, your car is going to get you to work, it’s going to get you where you need to go. But what will help stand it out is of course, the design and looks but that software experience, like how it feels when you’re behind the wheel, all that kind of stuff.

Glenn Stevens 3:29
Yeah, I’ve had a couple of interesting conversations. And I always do about this subject. But if you look at Tesla, people are not buying Tesla’s for their fit, and they’re finished out and they’re all they care about is the tech and that cachet that goes with the brand. But the same thing for Ford, GM, Volkswagen, Toyota, Honda gets that tech interface. And yes, the reliability and the safety, that cannot be assumed. But when it comes to technology, and electrification and connectivity, that’s what people want, and younger generations are gonna want more and more of that. That’s also a way for companies to monetize things to which is different from the normal business model in the auto industry. So you’re

Jer Staes 4:06
definitely seeing across the automakers are getting the sense that the expectations what people want out of their vehicle has changed.

Glenn Stevens 4:12
Absolutely. Absolutely. The consumer experience was one thing not that long ago, it was how many cupholders does your minivan have now we’re talking about how much how much connectivity does my vehicle have to everything around me to infrastructure, to my home to my phone, to my you know, my friends and my neighbors? That’s what they want it the vehicle is the most high tech piece of software enabled equipment on the face of the earth. There’s nothing more than than our vehicles

Jer Staes 4:41
what I think is encouraging overall. And you know, I’ve written in a Tesla I’ve written a number of electric vehicles, the Mustang others, the thing that our automakers have, that is such an advantage is that once they start turning in a direction, they have the ability for that fit and finish the reliability the overall whereas like if you look at Some of the other electric you know, we were talking about Tesla fit and finish. Like, you know What have people I talk about cars with Eric like we have a running text thread about jokes about like door gaps and air getting in and all that other stuff. That doesn’t happen with GM. That doesn’t

Glenn Stevens 5:13
happen. No, it doesn’t. It doesn’t because again, honored 20 years and making these vehicles. But you know, I also want to pause and say we would not be having this electrification conversation. If it wasn’t for Elon Musk and Tesla. I’ve been in the factory two times I’ve been in the r&d Center a couple of times, I’ve interacted with the company I’ve seen how they grow friends that are lucid now, very cool vehicle that they’re developing. We’re here because they push the envelope those people and I think they need to have credit now. where things go from here I’m it’s hyper uncompetitive. And electrification is here, because there are reasons climate needs this. And consumers want this. And we’re actually behind in this country, versus Europe and Asia. So it’s gonna be interesting to see how it shakes out

Jer Staes 5:59
what is part of the thing that’s driving electric vehicles to really gain that percentage share, like it’s really starting to build traction, it’s still a smaller percentage, but that percentage relatively just growing so quickly, what do you think’s driving, that

Glenn Stevens 6:11
it’s growing because the system the ecosystem around it is growing to remember, we have a gas station on just about every corner, right? I can, I don’t ever have to worry about filling up with an electric vehicle, you need the infrastructure, you need to be able to do the weather, and 80% of the charging is done in the home. So that’s, that’s really important that infrastructure to but vehicles are going to have to become more affordable. And they are, there’s been some moves lately at General Motors just made one because they’re not for the masses right now. And for mass consumer adoption happen, vehicles have to be able to accessible to the masses.

Jer Staes 6:45
Yeah, you’re referring to that General Motors announced they’re going to be more aggressive with their pricing on the bolt. And then Jim Farley over at Ford followed, saying that there’s a price war coming on electric, which is going to be interesting. And I think it’s going to drive a lot more work. Because when you drive those volumes up, then your prices are really going to start to come down. I

Glenn Stevens 7:01
mean, you’re getting economies of scale. But right now, I mean, the battery system, from a weight from a cost of the percentage of the vehicle is pretty significant for any OEM around the world, that’s going to have to come down, we’re gonna see dramatic transformation and electric battery systems over the next few years, it’s really mean that’s like the Holy Grail right now extending range, getting weighed out and getting cost out of that system. And there’s so much that goes with it, including the minerals that we have to get to make these batteries. That’s a whole nother that’s probably a whole nother podcast.

Jer Staes 7:31
Oh, it could be and also looking at recycling using the minerals we already have in the system and recycling those batteries and

Glenn Stevens 7:37
want to bring as much of the minerals in those batteries, extract them recycle and bring them back to the beginning of the assembly process and batteries. That’s the key for efficiencies. That’s why Ford is constructing Louisville city and Memphis the way they’re doing it as a full lifecycle, bring it back, battery recycling all the way back to the beginning of the line and do it again,

Jer Staes 7:59
speaking about battery technology, where do you feel that Michigan and Metro Detroit? You know, Mitch Otto is also something that’s tied to the Detroit Regional Chamber? How do you feel we are positioned in that? And what kind of what are we looking for going forward to, to really like, hit the mark on that and be a leader,

Glenn Stevens 8:14
I think there’s some really core assets here already. I mean, you have things like the University of Michigan battery center, you have, you know, OEMs, and suppliers, and r1, universities doing research, you have companies like one or nextenergy, that are developing new battery technology, here’s I think there’s essentially a really strong core. But that’s only going to grow, if companies that want to be part of that ecosystem, just like they have for the internal combustion engine came here, there’s flags from all over the world flying in Metro Detroit, have suppliers and companies that are part of the ecosystem, we need that battery system to be the same as it was for the internal combustion engine the last 100 years. And so that’s going to be critical. And again, talent is going to be probably the driving force.

Jer Staes 8:56
So when it comes to that talent, if you had a wish list of a few things, however many you want, like, when it comes to that kind of talent, what would you want on your wish list so that we are positioned to get that and have that be here,

Glenn Stevens 9:07
the number one thing, we really believe, and we’ve studied this and looked at this as we develop and nurture and grow your own. So the kids that are growing up in Michigan, we need to make sure that they’re getting the right base level education, I’m going to say it because it’s so essential, and then that we’re giving them career path planning into careers that they could be in, in any in any industry. But for our specific industry, we need more of these young people to be channeled into STEM careers, and even coding and careers like that, because that’s the type of talent that the industry needs for the future. I think most companies will tell you that they believe that 75% of their employees today and for the future going to come from traditional means like schools, universities, community colleges and 25% are going to come from non traditional coding academies and things like that. And so that’s really important for us is to grow our own talent and keep it here. Retention. And then we need to attract more people here to Michigan population and demographics are not in our favor right now.

Jer Staes 10:06
No. And so what are some of the strategies to do that part? Well, you have to

Glenn Stevens 10:09
be a place that people want to live. So strong communities, whether it’s an urban center, like Detroit, or even Grand Rapids, or if it’s a rural community like Marquette or Traverse City or Sheboygan, strong communities, digital broadband access anywhere in the state at any time. So that remote worker, that tech worker can work in where they want physical infrastructure, that’s important too. And then it’s an intangible, but the philosophy and the whether or not that it’s a welcoming, inclusive state, that’s where people want to live. So the things you can see and the things you believe in are important to where people want to live. And that’s really something that we’re focused on, too.

Jer Staes 10:48
I mean, that welcoming and inclusive part is part of what I think we’re really wrestling with as a state, even on our politics. That’s something that is like a real conversation right now.

Glenn Stevens 10:56
We absolutely are abortion. There’s an issue right there. I mean, that is an issue where, you know, if you believe in choice, and a lot of people believe in that choice, but the issue is, is should we be looking at whether or not a person has a choice to make decisions, whether it’s at issue or something else, in an inclusive type of community and environment. Or we’re going to be looking at a law that’s been on the books since 1931. And that we’re going to revert to that doesn’t make sense for the future of the world we live in right now.

Jer Staes 11:24
Well, in a previous life, I worked on something that did not succeed in dealing with changes to Elliott Larsen, that eventually got changed by the law by a by a court decision. But as we’ve learned, court decisions can be reversed that kind of thing. You know, Elliott Larsen, where it’s, you know, creates a more inclusive environment for employees, and where, you know, there’s protections for all kinds of different employees. I think that you know, more and more, especially people and I get this for, especially from listeners, like under 40, that matters to them, they look at that stuff and go Is this a place where even if I’m not of that group, that my friends are going to be safe, protected, and valued there.

Glenn Stevens 12:01
It matters to people, just like it used to matter. A long time ago, my great grandfather came from Finland, to work in the mines in the up. And he came because he thought there was in place, it was opportunity for a better life for him. And he worked hard, and he built a life. And that’s what people want to do. But they want to do it in a place where they can work hard, be rewarded for it. Build a family and a community that, frankly, they can express their beliefs and whatever those may be. And you know, you and I are we go to Hamtramck all the time. That’s what I think is so cool about Hamtramck. It’s like this melting pot of people. What if we had more melting pots in Michigan, and I think that’s what we need is Michigan to be more of a physical melting pot. But also it’s got to be from a belief standpoint to

Jer Staes 12:46
one a couple of stats about Hamtramck it’s one of the fastest growing cities as one of the only growing cities in the metro Detroit area. Shocker. Right, right. And it’s also the most population dense if you want an area that’s a lot closer to Brooklyn, that same traffic.

Glenn Stevens 12:58
Yeah, you know, I go over to London, every now narrative pre pandemic to watch Premier League. And then when I’m in London, I load this is different, you know, and I was born in Munich. And when I was in Munich, it’s different. We need to make sure that Michigan come back to Michigan, Detroit, Grand Rapids, Marquette, the SU Houghton, there’s a philosophy of you can be who you want to be. And you can live in a beautiful state that’s got freshwater, and you’ve got infrastructure around you, and you’ll get good education. That’s what’s going to attract Michigan, to be a growth place

Jer Staes 13:29
and those connections to you know, you think about your Royal Oaks or Ferndale, the Woodward corridor, up the east side, all those things. And when I went reference Metro Detroit, but obviously that applies in all those other places, too, so people can get to work. And it’s also in that way, whether you’re talking about the broadband, or you’re talking about connections to places, that’s also increases in more equitable environment as well, too.

Glenn Stevens 13:49
Absolutely. I mean, we don’t have mass transit, but we have to figure some solutions out because people have a basic right. They have a lot of basic rights. But first of all, they need to be able to get to work to education and to healthcare. And a lot of people don’t have the ability to do that. Because they don’t have that transportation. And that’s one of the things that we’ve been focused on for a long time with the Mayor’s Office of the Detroit mobility coalition is how can the auto industry use technology to solve some of these issues we have with transit in there’s a lot of things to tackle. We’re covering a lot of ground right here. But I think that the general notion of everything is is we’re trying to make Michigan a growth state and people are people want to live and work and play. And there’s a lot of components that go to that. And there’s a lot of unity from a political standpoint, it’s needed to make that happen.

Jer Staes 14:36
Right. And I really do hope that that has happened. It’s always great to talk to you Glenn, and I gotta say go the Roush.

Glenn Stevens 14:44
Thanks, take care

Jer Staes 14:54
and we are done for today. Of course, if you’ve got feedback daily detroit@gmail.com A couple of quick reminders on Saturday. We will be at Ferndale pride come by the arch. Check it out, take some pictures, it’ll be fun. And then on Friday, June 10, our 1,000th Episode celebration at the congregation. It is a happy hour, check out the event on Eventbrite or Facebook. And or just, you know, feel free to come on by it would be so great to see you. Alright, tomorrow Devin Kelley joins me as he does every Friday for a special edition of the show. And then next week, we’re back to regular business, but we’re going to add some conversations we had up here that I think you’ll enjoy. I know I did, having them. I’ll make sure to add them sooner than later. I heard the feedback. You want them fresh. I’m gonna make sure they are. So with that. I’m jer Staes. Remember that you are somebody and I’ll see you around Detroit.

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