Ford CEO: No current plans for performance hybrids

Michael Martinez
The Detroit News

Las Vegas — Ford President and CEO Mark Fields said the automaker doesn’t have current plans to offer a hybrid performance vehicle, despite investing $4.5 billion in electric vehicle research through the end of the decade.

“It really comes down to what the customer wants in that segment,” Fields told The Detroit News in a Wednesday interview at the CES technology trade show. “Never say never, but right now that’s not in our plans.”

Ford said last month it would invest billions of dollars in electric vehicles — including all-electric and plug-in hybrids — and add 13 new EVs by 2020 to give buyers more choices and conform to strict federal fuel-efficiency standards. By 2020, Ford said 40 percent of its nameplates worldwide will be electrified, up from about 13 percent today.

Fields said Ford didn’t include gas-electric hybrid technology in its 2017 GT supercar — which he’s called a showcase for its latest technology — because much of the focus of the GT is on making it lighter, and the battery parts would weigh down the vehicle.

Fields discussed at CES Tuesday how Ford is working to be both an automotive and mobility company. He said Wednesday he hopes Ford can gain a slice of the $5.4 trillion transportation services industry but didn’t offer a specific dollar amount.

“Just chasing after a revenue number, you can lose a lot of money doing that,” he said. “There’s a very big opportunity. Let’s pick our shots, and even if we get a small portion of that segment, it could be significant in terms of revenue.”

Collaborations have been a theme of CES this year — everything from General Motors Co. partnering with ride-sharing service Lyft to Ford partnering with Amazon to connect the home and car. There have been reports that Ford is in talks with Google Inc. to build driverless cars.

“Partnerships are going to be very important,” Fields said. “We can’t have the arrogance to say we’re going to do everything on our own.”

Fields has said that he expects some automaker to have an autonomous vehicle on the road by 2020. He said Wednesday that Ford doesn’t have a specific timetable.

“We will introduce it when it’s ready for prime time, but most importantly it will be accessible to everyone.”

Fields, in a wide-ranging interview, called Ford’s relatively sluggish stock price “frustrating.”

“We have to continue to focus on the key elements that drive stock price and that’s revenue growth, operating margin expansion and a healthy dividend that’s sustainable through an economic cycle,” he said. “We’re doing that and we’re going to keep working at it. At some point, I’m confident we’ll get rewarded for that.”

Asked how long he’d like to remain CEO, Fields said: “I don’t even think about those things. I love what I do every day, and I serve at the pleasure of the board of directors.”

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