Over the past year, Ford Motor has raced to develop self-driving cars, put down roots in Silicon Valley and backed ride-sharing start-ups — all in an effort to be seen as not just a car manufacturer but a “mobility company.” Its goal is to emulate the likes of Google and Tesla Motors as it aims to shape the future of getting from place to place.
On Tuesday, Ford outlined a plan to make its corporate headquarters a reflection of that vision.
The company, which is 112 years old, said it would begin transforming its headquarters and main development center in Dearborn, just outside Detroit, into two sprawling, high-tech campuses of energy-efficient buildings. There, it plans to showcase autonomous shuttles, electric bikes and other green modes of transportation.
The project will take 10 years to complete and consolidate some 30,000 employees now housed in 70 buildings, the company said.
“This is more than an investment in new buildings,” Mark Fields, Ford’s chief executive, said in a webcast.
Donna Inch, who heads Ford’s real estate arm, said the company hoped that the interconnected campuses and new buildings with new open work spaces would spur innovation.
“The whole idea is to think differently,” Ms. Inch said in an interview. Ford, she added, takes the view that automakers must “keep reinventing yourself if you’re going to be relevant for the next 100 years.”
Ford did not indicate how much it would spend on the makeover, except to say it is included in planned capital expenses. Ford has budgeted $7.7 billion for capital costs this year and is projecting to increase that to $9 billion by around 2020, a spokesman said.
The headquarters plan reflects a broader struggle by automakers to shed their Rust Belt images and recast themselves as nimble, high-growth companies, said Akshay Anand, an analyst at with the research firm Kelley Blue Book.
It is a move that is aimed at investors and potential employees as much as consumers of the future, Mr. Anand said. “Ford is now saying, ‘We want to be the place everybody is talking about when you’re working in these fields.’”
A year ago, when Ford opened a research center in Palo Alto, Calif., Mr. Fields readily acknowledged that the company was trying to be seen as “part of the ecosystem of Silicon Valley.”
Other automakers are moving in the same direction. General Motors recently invested $500 million in Lyft, the ride-sharing service and main rival of Uber. G.M. also acquired Cruise Automation, a maker of sensors and other gear that can enable conventional automobiles to drive themselves on highways. G.M. has a Silicon Valley outpost of its own, too, and is spending $1 billion to renovate its big technology center in Warren, Mich.
Henry Ford founded his car company in Detroit, but in 1917 began building a factory in Dearborn, his hometown. As more facilities were moved there, the city became synonymous with the company.
Ford’s new headquarters is patterned after the campus settings that have become the hallmark of tech companies like Apple, Google and Microsoft (though some have likened the designs for their new buildings to hippie communes).
The first phase of Ford’s project will begin this year and focus on the company’s research and engineering facilities, which date to 1953. They will be renovated and linked with new green spaces, covered walkways and bike paths. The centerpiece will be a new design center. Work is supposed to be completed by 2023.
A renovation of its “Glass House” headquarters building, which opened in 1956, is scheduled to begin in 2021. Over several more years, it will be connected to a series of new and existing buildings. They will be linked to parking decks, soccer fields and a nearby arboretum.
Together, the two campuses will serve as a showcase for the future, with autonomous vehicles ferrying executives around and other people riding electric bikes.
All of the buildings will be designed to minimize energy use. One of them will demonstrate sustainability by generating more energy than it consumes. It will rely on solar power as well as geothermal power for heating and cooling, Ford said.