NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Ford (F), saddled with a research and development campus in Dearborn, Mich., that dates to the 1950s, is preparing to spend $1 billion over the next several years to renovate the facility.
A main goal of the project is to create an up-to-date environment that will help to recruit and retain young, tech-savvy engineers and computer scientists who now look mainly to the West Coast and, specifically, to the Silicon Valley campuses of Google (GOOG), Facebook (FB) and Amazon (AMZN) for employment.
Old-line industrial companies have struggled to create working spaces that are as attractive to recent college graduates as those offered by startups or high-tech firms. Modular steel cubicles, which have been satirized in motion pictures, are giving way to lounges, comfortable seating, bike paths, workout facilities, kitchens stocked with snacks and recreational gear, such as foosball tables.
General Motors (GM) in May announced a similar $1 billion investment in its R&D Tech Center in Warren, Mich. Ford is declining to comment on the project, though a request for proposal has been circulating among architects and construction companies and was reported in Automotive News, a trade publication.
Investments designed to attract high-tech talent to the automotive industry highlight the extent to which modern automobiles must rely on computing and software for advanced safety, autonomous and infotainment features, as well as the car's basic operation. BMW's latest 7 Series sedan, currently being tested by journalists in Miramas, France, and going on sale later this year, will offer several advanced features, including a key fob that will let a driver park the car while standing outside the vehicle.