Ford Chairman Bill Ford speaks on Jan.
DETROIT – A decade ago, Ford Motor positioned itself as the market leader in electrified vehicles with new global models such as the C-Max and Focus Electric.
These “green” cars should lead the automaker’s efforts to electrify potentially 25% of its fleet by 2020, Chairman Bill Ford wrote in a May 2011 article for Fortune Magazine. But they didn’t, and Ford watched a start-up called Tesla become the industry benchmark for zero-emission vehicles. Meanwhile, Crosstown rival General Motors became Wall Street’s leading legacy automaker for electric vehicles.
Current Ford CEO Jim Farley, who took the helm on October 1, was quick to announce a tougher move toward electric vehicles. Since then, Ford has released an all-electric Mustang crossover and introduced an electric F-150. While the new electric vehicles have been well received, Ford is battling for a leadership position amid a litany of old and new competitors.
Bill Ford, great-grandson of the company’s founder, is well aware of this. A greener automotive industry has always been one of his missions. As an environmentalist and longest-serving chairman of an automaker, he has acted as a rare champion – or conscience – for green practices in the industry.
In a company that relies on fossil fuels to power its products and big trucks to grow its profits, this has historically been taboo, even discouraged.
But that’s changing. The promise of electric vehicles and Wall Street’s support for more sustainable businesses lead Ford to believe that its decade-long vision of a greener auto industry and company is finally achievable. And investors have noticed, sending Ford stock up about 50% in 2021.
“When I joined the company in 1979, I came as someone very caring about the environment, and I was utterly appalled that this view was not only not shared, but honestly despised within the company,” Ford told CNBC during of a video interview. “That has all changed now. And yes, it makes me really excited.”
He admits that the company’s early “green cars” may have been as successful as he wanted them to be back then. However, he believes that the industrial and consumer acceptance of electric vehicles is changing and that his pursuit of a more sustainable industry has been right all along.
“They may not have been the right time, they might not be quite ready for prime time when they came out, but it was absolutely the right thing to do in that direction,” said Ford.
Ford versus Trump
Doing the “right thing” was not always easy for the 64-year-old automobile heir. His support for the environment and industry has drawn criticism from supporters on both sides.
Most recently, former President Donald Trump publicly condemned Bill Ford and the company last year for agreeing with California on stricter fuel consumption and emissions standards.
Ford was the only American automaker at the time. Ford’s biggest Crosstown rival – General Motors – backed the Trump administration before changing its stance to support California after Joe Biden, a proponent of electric vehicles and stricter vehicle emissions regulations, defeated Trump in the 2020 election.
President Donald Trump wears a mask on a private tour of three Ford GTs from recent years at the Ford Rawsonville plant.
“It is important to stand for things. We have adopted environmental attitudes that have not always been popular and, in many cases, have violated what the rest of our industry has been doing, “said Ford, who has now spanned seven American companies as President. “And that’s fine because it gives you a sense of who you are.”
Farley, who joined Ford in 2007, described that feeling earlier this year as “absolute” for the automaker and its future plans. The company is expected to release more about its sustainability plans and how they relate to its new Ford + turnaround plan shortly.
Environmental Defense Fund president Fred Krupp said the company’s support for California emissions standards and the Paris Climate Agreement were two of the most recent examples of Bill Ford’s leadership in the industry.
“He was a leader,” said Krupp, who has known Ford for 20 years, in a telephone interview. “I can’t think of any other American auto manager who has done more to push the subject forward than Bill.”
Despite Ford’s support for electric vehicles and the environment, the automaker hasn’t said when it intends to switch its entire line of products to electric vehicles, unlike rival GM, which has announced it will be fully electric by 2035. Ford has announced that all-electric vehicles will account for 40% of global sales by 2030.
Bill Ford said it is ultimately up to consumers to decide how quickly the electric vehicle rollout will happen, but more investment and new products will help. Ford’s current range of products includes plug-in hybrid electric vehicles with gasoline engines as well as the Mustang Mach-E crossover – its only electric vehicle.
“Our customers are really going to determine how quickly it happens,” said Ford. “But I tell you we will be ready when that happens. We are putting an incredible amount of pressure. You will see more announcements from us in the near future.”
Ford Motor Executive Chairman Bill Ford (left) and actor Idris Elba alongside Ford’s all-electric Mustang Mach-E GT SUV at the Jet Center Los Angeles in Hawthorne, California on Sunday, November 17, 2019. Elba, who previously worked at Ford Motor Co. helped introduce the vehicle to the public in the 1980s.
Ford has at least two additional EVs by mid-2022 – a commercial van later this year and an electric version of the F-150 pickup called Lightning. The new electric vehicles are part of Ford’s plans to invest more than $ 30 billion in electric vehicles by 2025, of which about $ 7 billion was invested as early as February.
Ford said it was “very confident” that the automaker can lead the way in electric vehicles. He also believes there will be some consolidation in the auto industry as a flurry of new competitors try to occupy the space.
“We are clearly an industry in the midst of change and I believe that if we move too fast in 10 years, there will be clear winners and losers in this new world of electric vehicles. [autonomous vehicles] and software, “he said.” I think the winners may not be all of the familiar faces people would have thought of.
“I mean, look at a company like Tesla, which is a very young company that has done incredibly well. There will be others.”
Aside from its own investments in electric vehicles, Ford is a minority investor in electric vehicle startup Rivian, which filed for an IPO last week. The company is reportedly aiming for a valuation of $ 80 billion – which is a higher valuation than Ford at $ 51 billion and GM at $ 71 billion.
Rivian Founder and CEO RJ Scaringe and Ford Executive Chairman Bill Ford announce a $ 500 million Ford investment in Rivian.
Source: Ford Motor Co.
Realize your vision
Electric vehicles aren’t the only part of Bill Ford’s vision for a greener future. He believes that autonomous vehicles and the overhaul of the industry’s manufacturing and supply chain must also happen.
He said more needs to be done to reduce the industry’s overall carbon footprint, including using more renewable energy to make vehicles, as well as autonomous vehicles that can alleviate public transport problems and global traffic collapse.
“We don’t have to be 100% in any of these areas, but when I have the feeling that we are on the right track in all of these areas and I have the feeling that it is still at the beginning, yes, we are on the way Way down “all these streets. Yeah, then I’ll feel great, “he said.
While the move to electric vehicles is still in its infancy, Ford, 64, has had no more than 40-year career with the automaker. However, he has no plans to leave the company for the foreseeable future, even if a younger generation of Ford joins the board of directors. His daughter Alexandra Ford English and nephew Henry Ford III were both elected to the company’s board of directors in May.
“I feel like I add value to Ford today, maybe more than ever,” said Ford. “As long as I feel like I’m contributing and working at the pace the company needs me to be, I will be here. Someday it won’t and I think I’ll know when that happens. ” . “
Ford Motor Company announced today that Alexandra Ford English and Henry Ford III have been nominated for election to the company’s board of directors at its annual general meeting on May 13th.
Source: Ford Motor Co.