DETROIT—Waymo has reached an agreement with American Axle & Manufacturing to lease a factory in Detroit, where it will integrate its self-driving systems onto vehicles provided by Fiat Chrysler Automobiles and Jaguar, the Google affiliate said.
Waymo will invest $13.6 million to adapt an existing plant within the supplier's Holbrook Avenue campus and could eventually grow to 200,000 square feet and hundreds of workers. The size of the footprint Waymo will open with later this year is not clear.
The move will create Waymo's first full-fledged assembly plant for the purpose of retrofitting vehicles with self-driving systems and marks an expansion into the cradle of the traditional auto industry.
In January, when Waymo laid out its ambitions to find a manufacturing facility in Southeast Michigan, it said as many as 400 engineers from Canada's Magna International Inc., a Waymo partner, eventually could be hired to perform the system integration. Waymo did not say how many employees would be hired initially.
"We've found the perfect facility in Detroit," Waymo CEO John Krafcik said. "We will partner with American Axle & Manufacturing to repurpose the existing facility, bringing a work force back to an area where jobs in the automotive industry were recently lost."
Mayor Mike Duggan welcomed the news.
"Waymo could have located the world's first 100 percent dedicated Level 4 autonomous vehicle factory anywhere," Duggan said. "We deeply appreciate the confidence John Krafcik and the Waymo team are showing in the Motor City."
Waymo worked with Dan Gilbert's Bedrock L.L.C. to find a space in Detroit.
"... Waymo's newest expansion only helps to affirm Detroit's position as the startup hub of the Midwest—making our city synonymous with high-tech innovation," Gilbert said in a statement.
Crain's reported in January that the project is supported by an $2 million grant from the Michigan Strategic Fund that covers the first 100 jobs—about $20,000 each—upon signing a lease for no less than three years. Waymo then could qualify for $20,000 for each new job at the site up to 400 new jobs or an additional $6 million in grants.
MichAuto, the automotive economic development division of the Detroit Regional Chamber, also is supporting the project by elevating Waymo's status in the nonprofit to a higher tier, an upgrade worth $25,000, according to an MEDC memo.