DETROIT--Magna International could assemble the electric vehicle that Ford Motor unveiled at the Detroit auto show, the supplier's executives say.
If so, Magna will become, after years of trying, the first auto supplier in recent history to do final assembly on a contract basis for a North American automaker. Ford has not yet made a decision on such an arrangement.
"It will depend on volume," Magna co-CEO Don Walker told Automotive News. "We need to get the vehicle to market and assess how many people will buy or lease it and final cost before it is determined whether it is assembled at Ford or on the outside."
Ford plans to build a zero-emission lithium ion electric vehicle to go on sale in 2011. Ford says the Fusion-sized car has an expected range as far as 100 miles on a single charge. The onboard battery charger will be capable of plugging into a 110- or 220-volt outlet. Charging time is expected to be 12 hours at 110 volts and half that at 220 volts.
Magna has sought for years to convince North American automakers that a supplier can build cars and trucks as well as they can.
The joint project with Ford gives Magna much of the vehicle's powertrain, including battery pack and battery cells, traction motor, transmission, and vehicle control units.
Magna does not manufacture lithium ion batteries. It will assemble the battery pack using batteries from a supplier who has not been named. But the giant supplier's Magna Steyr operation in Graz, Austria, is developing lithium ion batteries.
Ted Robertson, Magna's top technology officer, says the supplier has the capacity to build--rather than buy--up to 98 percent of the dozen systems and parts it was awarded.
Magna also will play a "key role" in the engineering required to integrate the electric propulsion system into the vehicle's architecture, the company said in a statement.
The award comes as some of Magna's long-term assembly contracts at its Austrian unit have run out or are about to do so. It lost the European-version Chrysler Voyager minivan in 2007 and Chrysler 300C car last year.
On the win side, Magna won production contracts last year for an SUV version of the Mini and Aston Martin Rapide and Peugeot 308 RC Z cars.
Contract production of Porsche's midengine Boxster and Cayman models will start in 2012.
Magna, of Aurora, Ontario, ranks No. 3 on the Automotive News list of the top 100 global suppliers with worldwide original-equipment automotive parts sales of $25.65 billion in 2007.
(Source: Automotive News)