Follow the Money: Ford, DOE & Nissan LEAF

Although much of the North American auto industry spent last year knocked back on its heels, there are encouraging signs that things are getting better—and not merely things like the fact that Ford reported a full year 2009 pre-tax operating profit (excluding special items) of $454-million.

Although much of the North American auto industry spent last year knocked back on its heels, there are encouraging signs that things are getting better—and not merely things like the fact that Ford reported a full year 2009 pre-tax operating profit (excluding special items) of $454-million. While that is a big number in and of itself, it is all the more incredible given that it is a $7.3-billion improvement of what was reported a year ago January.

And all indications are that Ford will be in the black for 2010.

But the number that is of interest here is another: $1.4-billion. That’s the amount of a loan agreement that Department of Energy Secretary Steven Chu announced last week. The loan is going to Nissan North America, and it will be used for the modification of Nissan’s Smyrna, TN, manufacturing plat to produce the Nissan LEAF electric vehicle (autofieldblog Car of the Year, incidentally). The money will be used not only for the assembly operations that are necessary for any midsize car (think, say, an Altima, although note well that the LEAF is purpose-built), but for the production of lithium-ion battery packs for the cars.

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If you go scrolling back through the entries here over the past several weeks, you’ll see that there is real money being spent by the auto industry (supported, it should be noted, by state and federal governments) to transform from the internal combustion monoculture to the growing—what?—counter culture.