We already published some preliminary commentary on Ford’s newly revealed “electrified vehicle” plans for the next 5 years, but there are a couple of things not noted in that earlier article that are worth discussing here.
In particular, there are more specifics regarding the cash, manufacturing, and a fully electric SUV that is in the works (to some degree).
Ford noted in its press release on the matter that it will be investing $4.5 billion into its 2020 electrified vehicles plans (a figure initially announced in December 2015). That $4.5 billion includes funding for the previously discussed hybrid Mustang, a hybrid F-150 pickup, an all-electric SUV, and a plug-in hybrid (PHEV) Transit Custom van (for sale in Europe).
The company also revealed that $700 million of that figure will be used for the expansion of the company’s Flat Rock Assembly Plant in Michigan into a full-scale factory for the manufacturing of “high-tech autonomous and electric vehicles along with the Mustang and Lincoln Continental.” This Flat Rock Assembly Plant will reportedly lead to the direct creation of 700 direct new jobs.
While no one will complain about the company making such a move, as compared to it not doing so, the figures don’t seem that impressive considering the sorts of resources that Ford has at its disposal.
That a relatively new, over-stretched company like Tesla can put $5 billion into a battery-production facility (and directly create many thousands of jobs doing so), while also putting large amounts of money into the rapid ramping up of production to meet apparently very high demand for the Model 3 … there’s only one reasonable way (in my opinion) to look at Ford’s plans as they have been revealed — nominal, and probably not enough for the company to maintain current market share.
To be clear on that, I’m not expecting many current buyers of the F-150 pickup and the Mustang to switch over to what Tesla is offering. By all accounts, Ford buyers are generally quite loyal to the brand. But I’m skeptical that current trends will allow the company to maintain its current, very lucrative setup with only the plans that it has revealed to date. Market (and demographic) trends point towards the decline of the cash cow that is the F-150 pickup over the next decade or so, and the general decline of personal vehicle ownership as well.
Is a hybrid F-150 pickup in 2020 going to change this? Was the attempted acquisition of Lyft intended to? Is a hybrid Mustang going to allow the company to maintain its profit margins?
What about the 300 mile SUV that the company mentioned in its press release (without revealing estimated pricing, and to be released “by 2020”)?
While I’m not going to fault the company too much (at least it seems to be doing something, unlike Honda, which appears to either be very secretive, oblivious, or indifferent), the new plans don’t seem very serious. 2020 is a few years off and this comes across as a recently developed idea, not something the company has been working on for years.
A Ford Transit Custom van for Europe is a decent addition to Ford’s offerings too, but Europe already has 4 fully electric vans — the Renault Kangoo ZE, Citröen Berlingo EV, Nissan e-NV200, and Peugeot Partner EV.
Something that should be noted here that is to Ford’s credit, though, is its involvement in a recently announced pan-Europe fast-charging network buildout over the coming years. This buildout will supposedly result in a network of several-thousand fast-charging-stations by 2020 — which would possibly make it competitive with Tesla’s Supercharger network.