Ford Motor opens research center in Tel Aviv

By Ari Rabinovitch
A view of the Ford sign at the engine plant at Bridgend

By Ari Rabinovitch

TEL AVIV (Reuters) - Ford Motor Co on Wednesday opened a research center in Tel Aviv, joining a growing number of major automakers and suppliers setting up shop in the Israeli tech hub as they race to develop self-driving cars.

With spiraling development costs for autonomous and connected cars in recent years, Ford and other carmakers have sought alliances and outside investors.

"No company can do it alone. No company should try and do it alone. We're going to need partnerships," Chairman Bill Ford said during his first visit to Israel. "Partnerships with companies big, companies medium and especially start-ups. The ecosystem of start-ups that I've seen here is just incredible."

The Tel Aviv lab will focus on technologies in connectivity, sensors, automated-systems research, in-vehicle monitoring and cyber security.

"I'm going to be back very frequently because this really becomes the lifeblood of what Ford Motor Co will become in the future," Ford said at the center's launch.

Renault and Nissan opened a joint innovation lab in Tel Aviv earlier in the week, enabling their alliance to also collaborate with Israeli start-ups.

U.S. chipmaker Intel Corp, German auto supplier Continental AG, Samsung Electronics Co, Daimler AG and General Motors Co also bought start-ups or set up their own development centers in Israel.

Ford reiterated his call for "clarity and certainty" regarding trade tensions between the United States and China and said he was delivering the same message to both sides in the dispute.

Last week, China levied a $24 million fine on Ford's main joint venture in China for antitrust violations.

"There's always risk everywhere we operate," Ford said.

"Part of our job is to try and minimize those risks. But we're talking to both sides. Not just the Chinese, we're talking to the Americans as well.

"They hear us loud and clear. By the way, obviously, we're not the only ones delivering the message."


(Additional reporting by Ankit Ajmera in Bengaluru; Editing by Elaine Hardcastle)