Ford made waves recently when it announced it would stop producing cars (except for the iconic Mustang) — in favor of SUVs, trucks and other large vehicles — for the United States. It wasn’t a big surprise and if anything it was expected since SUV and truck sales are growing while car sales plummet. But there’s another big change going on at Ford: the move to electrification.
“With (Ford CEO Jim) Hackett, we’re all in. We’re going to be bigger and we want to change the process,” Ted Cannis, Ford’s global director of battery electric vehicles, said during a recent interview with Engadget. The automaker is adjusting to a rapidly changing automotive world. That means dropping vehicles that no longer sell (cars) and making sure that its lineup is electrified.
Moving away from cars and simultaneously going electric may seem counterintuitive (it takes more energy to move all that extra weight), but SUVs and trucks offer more battery space and consumers have voted with their pocketbooks that they want the room these bigger vehicles provide.
According to Cannis, the move to electrification is also driven by consumers, thanks to advancements in EV technology. “When it was compliance cars, there’s nothing wrong with Ford Focus Electric. It’s executed well. But, it’s not too exciting,” he said.
Those days are over (or at least coming to an end). Instead, in his view, adding a battery to a car should make it better for drivers. “Let’s make them awesome. Let’s amplify what’s best about that for that user group and really make awesome vehicles.” The automaker is no longer seeing high mpg and battery-powered cars as a government-mandated necessity. Instead, EVs and hybrids have become an opportunity to appease a market hungry for technology and a greener lifestyle.
That includes bringing the “awesome” 300-mile range Mustang-inspired small SUV (codenamed Mach 1) to a dealership near you in 2020. After that, the company will introduce 40 electrified vehicles (16 of which will be EVs) worldwide by 2022.
This new direction and excitement about electrified vehicles is a bit of an about-face from 2016, when former CEO Mark Fields shared his concerns that EV sales were soft. That’s despite Tesla Model 3 pre-orders hitting over 300,000 a few months before his remarks.
There’s a new CEO at the helm, though and according to Cannis, Hackett is adjusting how the company operates from end-to-end for this electrification plan. Cannis said the company wants to move quicker, like a startup. It’s not a small division or test program, this is the entire organization moving towards a single goal to bring electrification to the road. It better hit those goals because it needs to do some catching up.
Ford is behind right now. Its Focus EV is just an internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicle that’s been modified to be an EV. Meanwhile, Nissan, Honda, GM, Jaguar and, of course, Tesla are building and selling EVs built from the ground up. Some of those cars are actually awesome. The Focus EV, not so much.
On Ford’s horizon, though, are crossovers, SUVs and even a hybrid F-Series (you can’t beat that electric torque). They’re vehicles that are meant to be sold on features instead of gas mileage. The automaker wants you to buy them because you have some sort of emotional connection. Very few of us buy cars based on logic; it’s all about what you like and what you think you need. Ford is hoping you think you need an “awesome” EV crossover that sort of looks like a Mustang. It’s not just hoping; it’s betting everything on it.