Hot on the heels of the announcement that Ford will be releasing new diesel truck models in the US — as a means of lowering official overall fleet fuel economy ratings, and thus keeping in line with regulations — Ford execs at the Detroit Auto Show have revealed that the company will be investing $11 billion into electrified vehicles by 2022.
The plan, as Steve reported yesterday, is now for Ford to offer at least 40 hybrid, plug-in hybrid, and all-electric vehicles in its model lineup by 2022 — as revealed by Ford Chairman Bill Ford himself.
What should be made of the news? Is the Ford family itself pushing towards electric vehicles due to worries about future market trends? Is that why (or one of the reasons why) Mark Fields was pushed out as CEO last year? Didn’t have enough of an electric vision?
Is it it mostly PR, fluff, and soft targets because that’s what others are doing?
It’s hard to say exactly, as there is no doubt at all that Ford still makes vast amounts of money selling pickup trucks in the US. On that note, though, what’s perhaps most interesting about the recent comments is that production of the hybrid version of the F-150 truck is finally expected to begin — well, in 2020 — in Dearborn, Michigan.
While that may not sound like much, it will represent the first hybrid truck offering in the US from a major manufacturer — and should serve some value in that regard as a sign of a cultural shift.
And the fact of the matter anyways is that, by 2020, gas/petrol prices in the US are likely to have climbed back up to a degree that they are squeezing the pockets of most Americans — which means that hybrid sales might actually end up being pretty good, if Ford pushes them.
Will Ford push them? Based on recent moves, I’m inclined to think that they will, but also that there may be a mark-up on the hybrid model that limits sales to a fair degree.
A jump to $11 billion of investment is significant. It’s not a whole-hearted, revolutionary change, but it’s not a “fake effort” either — if that is really what will be invested.
At any rate, we have a couple of years to find out, and there may well be a fair amount of competition by then (take a look at Workhorse’s truck for instance). Will Ford’s lighter hybrid approach work? Will it fizzle and hurt sales? Will Tesla come in and steal the show with a powerful electric pickup? It’s very hard to tell how this market will respond and what products will actually be on the market by 2020.
It’s notable, though, that Ford himself stated: “We’re all in on this and we’re taking our mainstream vehicles, our most iconic vehicles, and we’re electrifying them. If we want to be successful with electrification, we have to do it with vehicles that are already popular.”
I’m sure many readers here would rather see a fully electric F-150 and some fully electric, ground-up electric cars — we’ll see if Ford’s more incremental, “don’t rock the boat” approach ends up being better business sense than other approaches out there that are more transformative.
As an important reminder here, many of the models alluded to above will be released in China, and designed to sell well there.
For more background on the news, see: Ford Promises Performance Electric SUV & 40 Electrified Models By 2025 In $11 Billion Push.