Published on March 16th, 2018 | by Steve Hanley0
Ford Trolls Musk With Electric SUV Announcement
March 16th, 2018 by Steve Hanley
Jim Farley, Ford’s president of global sales, trolled Elon Musk at a media event on March 15, saying his company has a battery electric SUV in development and it will be famous even without being shot into space. Can you say “In your face!” boys and girls? What Farley is so smug about is hard to say. The company has released almost no details about the new car other than to say it will be low slung and have high performance like a Mustang. It will be in showrooms by 2020, according to Farley.
Wait a minute. “Low slung,” “high performance,” and “SUV.” Do those terms even go together? Apparently Jim Farley thinks so. He he told the press that more details about the new vehicle would be forthcoming soon, according to TechCrunch. OK, Jim. We are all ears. The hot new electric SUV will be one of 6 electric vehicles Ford says it will have in its lineup by 2022. The company announced previously that it is doubling its investment in electric vehicles to $11 billion.
That claim has to be taken with a grain of salt, however. Later in the presentation, Farley said Ford will have 6 new or updated SUV’s on sale soon, only one of which will be the all new battery electric wünderwagon. The other five will be hybrids. Whether that means plug-in hybrids or conventional hybrids like the Toyota Prius, he didn’t say.
Ford may simply be adapting the PHEV system it uses in the Fusion to other vehicles. Nothing wrong with that, but it hardly explains what the company is spending that $11 billion electric car R&D budget on. The company has shown a tendency to play fast and loose in its EV marketing so far. Last year it crowed that the Fusion Energi had the longest range of any plug-in hybrid in America. That is technically true, but only because Ford increased the size of the gas tank in the car. Its electric-only range is still only in the low 20 mile range — hardly a leap of technological prowess.
Ford at least recognizes where the market is heading and that SUVs will lead the way. Farley says he expects them to account for half of the US new car market by 2020. (With light truck sales like the Ford F-150 making up the other half, no doubt.) It is shifting $7 billion from its passenger car development budget over to SUVs and says it will have all new versions of the Explorer and Escape in showrooms next year. Will they be hybrids? Plug-in hybrids? Who knows?
There is a suggestion that a new smaller as yet unnamed SUV, perhaps similar to the Honda HR-V, is coming. An all new version of the iconic Ford Bronco, a model that has been out of the lineup for many years, is also being teased.
Does Ford get it or is it just running fast enough to keep the electric car leaders like Tesla and Volkswagen in sight? It’s impossible to know, but the big announcement this week seems like rather weak tea compared to VW’s statement that it has committed itself to purchasing more than $25 billion worth of batteries and other electric powertrain components in the next few years.
There is no doubt the auto industry is facing an enormous upheaval, one that will leave at least some legacy automakers behind. Ford is acting more like an also-ran than a leader, despite Jim Farley’s taunt of Elon Musk. Will it survive the coming crosscurrents that are roiling the industry? “We’ll see,” said the Zen master.