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Published on January 18th, 2014 | by Zachary Shahan


Ford’s Response To Big Auto Criticism From Tesla Co-Founder

January 18th, 2014 by  

At the end of my recent interview with Mike Tinskey, Ford’s global director of vehicle electrification and vehicle infrastructure, I brought up comments made by Tesla co-founder Marc Tarpenning regarding the internal barriers major car companies (like Ford) face in transitioning to EVs. A key source of those barriers is that these companies now outsource much of the manufacturing (including all of the main electrical stuff, according to Marc), but have kept the engine work in-house, leaving that as the real bread and butter or essence of their competitive advantage. Marc indicated that major auto companies have been getting more serious about electric vehicles within the past few years (for example, many have moved their EV budgets from their PR and advanced propulsion programs to their drive-train programs), but that they are still a long way off from embracing the shift. I asked Mike if he could say a bit about how Ford was approaching the EV transition at this point, about one year after introducing the C-Max Energi and Fusion Energi, plug-in hybrid electric cars that have seen pretty good sales results, together nearly surpassing sales of the Chevy Volt in November and far surpassing sales of the Toyota Prius Plug-in Hybrid. Unfortunately, we got cut off right as Mike started to answer the question (a problem on my end). The good news is that gave Mike more time to respond at length and in text. Here’s what Mike had to say in response to that super long lead-in:

Ford’s electrification strategy foresees a future that includes different types of electrified vehicles, depending on customers’ needs. ​Ford​ believe​s​ that offering a range of electrified vehicles is the best way to reduce CO2 emissions, deliver leading fuel economy across our lineup and meet different customers’ transportation needs. ​​To do this, we are electrifying global vehicle lines rather than creating a single, special electrified vehicle model. This allows our customers to choose from a variety of electrified vehicle powertrains in a range of vehicle segments, including sedans, utility vehicles, and luxury vehicles.

We are basing our electrified vehicle products on our highest-volume global platforms. This approach offers tremendous opportunities for production economies of scale. For example, the Focus Electric, C-MAX Energi, and C-MAX Hybrid are based on Ford’s next-generation compact, or “C-car” platform, and are being built alongside gas-powered Focus models at Ford’s Michigan Assembly Plant. This plant is the first in the world to build vehicles with five different fuel-efficient powertrain technologies on the same line.

2014 Ford Fusion Hybrid

A photo I took of the 2014 Ford Fusion Hybrid (Energi) after the test drive.
Image Credit: Nicholas Brown / CleanTechnica / Kompulsa

Globally, we expect to build as many as 2 million vehicles per year on the C-car platform. The new Fusion Hybrid and the Fusion Energi PHEV are based on our global mid-sized platform. This flexibility allows us to switch production between different vehicles as needed to meet changing consumer demand. We also share many of the electrified components between the different vehicles. These strategies are key to making electrified vehicles affordable.

​Though we can’t comment on future plans, we are optimistic that our Power of Choice strategy will allow us to provide our customers with the options they want, in an affordable way.


Zach writing again: whether or not a reactive EV strategy that doesn’t build EVs from the ground up is the best path forward is up for debate, but this approach is certainly the lower cost approach for the near future. As is well known, Nissan has taken a different approach, building the Nissan Leaf as an electric car from the ground up, as has Tesla of course. Vehicles better optimized for electric use are the result. However, there’s no denying that we’re at quite an early stage of electric vehicle growth and development. I will leave it up to the various auto companies (Ford and most others) to decide when they think it’s time to jump in more enthusiastically and build models that are only meant to run on electricity. Obviously, I think that the electric revolution is going to come about faster than many conventional auto bloggers and many in the auto industry think, and I think auto companies that delay rather than lead are going to be left in the dust. But we’ll see, and we’ll see how soon auto companies have to really jump into the EV development game in order to gain a strong reputation for their EVs….

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About the Author

is tryin' to help society help itself one word at a time. He spends most of his time here on CleanTechnica as its director, chief editor, and CEO. Zach is recognized globally as an electric vehicle, solar energy, and energy storage expert. He has presented about cleantech at conferences in India, the UAE, Ukraine, Poland, Germany, the Netherlands, the USA, Canada, and Curaçao. Zach has long-term investments in Tesla [TSLA] — after years of covering solar and EVs, he simply has a lot of faith in this company and feels like it is a good cleantech company to invest in. But he does not offer (explicitly or implicitly) investment advice of any sort on Tesla or any other company.

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