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FRANKFURT, Germany — Ford announced a major push into electric vehicles in Europe, vowing to convert its entire passenger car lineup on the continent to electrics by 2030. 

Ford will spend $1 billion to revamp its factory in Cologne, Germany and make it a base for production of zero local emission cars using Volkswagen’s mechanical framework, said Stewart Rowley, president of Ford of Europe, during an online news conference Wednesday.

The new electric car is to reach the market in mid-2023, and could be followed by a second one there in the future. 

Ford follows General Motors which said last month that its entire global fleet would largely be electric by 2035, breaking with more than a century of producing internal combustion engines. The speed of the transformation at GM and Ford underline sweeping changes in the auto industry. Regulators have pushed to limit emissions while automakers have shifted toward digital technology such as smartphone apps and advanced driver assistance systems, with the ultimate goal of fully autonomous vehicles. 

The agreement with Volkswagen lets Ford take advantage of VW’s massive investment in electric cars as the industry shifts toward zero-local emissions vehicles. The Volkswagen framework uses standard mechanical underpinnings such as the battery, suspension, wheels and axles that can be adjusted to manufacture different vehicle models. Volkswagen is already using the framework in its ID.3 compact and ID.4 sport-utility vehicle.

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The moves are part of Ford’s push to offer fully electric or plug-in gas-electric versions of all passenger vehicles in Europe by 2024, with all European vehicles going to full electric by 2030. The company also predicted that two-thirds of its European commercial vehicle sales will be electric or plug-in hybrids by 2030. 

“We are going all in on electric vehicles,” Rowley said. 

Carmakers in Europe must sell more electrics to meet new, lower limits on emissions of carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse gas blamed for global warming. The new limit, which took effect at the start of the year, is part of the European Union’s efforts to comply with the 2015 Paris agreement on global warming. If manufacturers don’t hold fleet average emissions below the limit, they face heavy fines. Rowley said Ford was in a position to avoid the fines going forward. 

The company said commercial vehicles are the key to growth and profitability in Europe, with new products and services through its alliance with Volkswagen and Ford’s Otosan joint venture in Turkey.

The investment, to be made through 2025, is among the most significant Ford has made in more than a generation and “underlines our commitment to Europe and a modern future,” Rowley.

Ford said the investment in the Cologne plant, which employs just over 4,000 workers, comes after its European operations returned to a profit in the fourth quarter of 2020.

The investment is part of Ford’s goal of spending at least $22 billion on electric vehicles from 2016-2025. 

Krisher contributed from Detroit, Michigan. 

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