Cotton and soybeans grow in the west Tennessee fields where, in four years, Ford Motor plans to manufacture electric trucks.

Last month Ford and its partner SK Innovation said they would invest $11bn to construct an electric vehicle assembly plant, battery factory, and supplier park on the farmland 50 miles north-east of Memphis, plus two battery plants in neighboring Kentucky.

The billions of dollars to be invested highlight the economic stakes for communities as the automotive industry commits to massive spending to switch away from assembling petrol-power vehicles.

US towns, states and regions are vying to lure new electric vehicle plants.

Ford’s Tennessee complex, to be dubbed Blue Oval City, will rise in an area that Haywood County mayor David Livingston said had been hemorrhaging population since the second world war.

“EVs are the wave of the future,” Livingston said. “I felt like I was on third base in the 1960 World Series when Bill Mazeroski hit a grand slam, that’s how ecstatic I am.”

The car industry is critical to the US economy. It accounted for 3 per cent of US gross domestic product last year and employed more than 900,000 people in manufacturing vehicles and parts with another 200,000 in sales. Average annual pay totals $84,000, $20,000 more than the average for all US industries.

But the spoils are not evenly distributed. Carmakers and their supply chains have historically been clustered in the Midwest, starting with Henry Ford cranking out Model Ts in south-east Michigan.

The economic benefits began to spread more widely in the 1970s and 1980s as US carmakers opened factories in southern states. Japanese and German carmakers followed suit. Today Kentucky, Tennessee and Alabama — the southern sections of an “auto alley” that runs from Michigan — all boast healthy car manufacturing sectors.