Instead of Building Better Cars, Ford Resorts to Unsuccessful Schoolyard Bullying Tactics

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Ford EMEA president and group vice president Steven Armstrong took to Twitter the other day to respond to Elon’s tweet about Tesla’s hard earned success in building 7,000 vehicles in a week. In his response, Mr. Armstrong made it clear that he had no control over his fingers and had no business being a VP at Ford. He decided to mock Tesla, stating that Ford makes 7,000 cars in about 4 hours, but skipping past the point that they are not clean, electric vehicles.

In addition to what might seem like punching down to Tesla, which is very much the underdog in the automotive world, the tweet makes it clear that the Ford VP is even a bit jealous of Tesla. Jealous? Yeah. Tesla’s stock has a market cap of $56.89 billion as of this writing. Compared to Ford’s rather dismal valuation of just $43.45 billion, it’s clear that Wall Street sees the vehicles of the future and they’re not adorned with Blue ovals.

I’m frankly having a hard time processing this disgusting tweet from the European president of a competing automotive company who’s clearly just pandering to his base. Ford is a truck company. It recently gave up trying to compete in sedans to focus on its truck and SUV business, and has all but dropped the ball when it comes to electrifying its vehicles — in the US, that’s in spite of fuel efficiency being a condition of its Department of Energy loan.

That’s right, the very same production lines that Steven Armstrong is now bragging about were paid for with a $5.9 billion loan from US taxpayers back in 2009 when Ford realized it would not be able to weather the recession otherwise.

The fact that a European president and global VP of a company the size of Ford feels he needs to hop on Twitter to take pot shots at the CEO of a company that’s building cars he doesn’t even compete with shows just how fearful Ford must be about Tesla’s pickup truck. Elon and the team at Tesla have eaten up each and every market segment they sell cars in, so there’s no reason to expect that the truck won’t do the same.

More than that, the F-150 truck is Ford’s bread and butter. Without it, what is Ford? Apparently, the company leadership is scared of the answer to that. Maybe Tesla will buy up Ford’s factories, purchased with taxpayer money, after gobbling up its market share. Ford has never been an all star when it comes to trying new things, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that it’s hating on the new guy on the block, the one guy in the room bold enough to stand up and call out two entire industries — big oil and big auto — as those responsible for thrashing the planet. Well, he’s not just calling them out; he’s also building the solution.

There must have been something in the water up at Ford’s HQ, because its vice president of communications, Mark Truby, also felt the need to take pot shots at Tesla for its new general assembly line — the one that was built in a tent out in the north lot at the Fremont factory. He similarly took to Twitter to brag about how great Ford is, noting that, “No doubt the vibe is funky in that ‘makeshift tent,’ but it’s not bad either across the street at the FordRouge plant where a high quality, high-tech F-150 rolls off the line every 53 seconds like clockwork.”

While the words of these Ford execs will not have a material negative impact on Tesla, they will inevitably serve to stoke the fire of the Tesla team. The moment strikes the same tone as the comment made by a Yahoo executive to Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian about then new-guy-on-the-block Reddit. The Yahoo exec said “you are a rounding error.” The Reddit team put that up on the wall in the office as motivation. Reddit now ranks #10 in overall web traffic and is anything but a rounding error to Yahoo’s 6th place.

Technological transitions are rarely easy, especially for the incumbents. Just ask Kodak, which famously failed to make the jump from film to digital even though it invented the digital camera. Forbes dug into Kodak’s missed leap and shared that the reason wasn’t any core business failure or financial miss. It was simply that, “The organization overflowed with complacency.”

Ford is surely sitting high today as it cranks out its Ford F-150s and Ford Explorers, but make no mistake, the Tesla Model Y and the Tesla Truck are aimed straight at Ford’s bread and butter markets. The future is now … and guess what? It no longer relies on burning stuff to do all the cool things we want to do. Sorry, Steve.

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Kyle Field

I'm a tech geek passionately in search of actionable ways to reduce the negative impact my life has on the planet, save money and reduce stress. Live intentionally, make conscious decisions, love more, act responsibly, play. The more you know, the less you need. As an activist investor, Kyle owns long term holdings in Tesla, Lightning eMotors, Arcimoto, and SolarEdge.

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