Ford looks to change minds with its new all-electric vehicle

Ian Thibodeau
The Detroit News
Crain Communications, Inc. Chairman and Automotive News Editor-in-Chief Keith Crain, left, interviews Jim Farley, president global markets, at Ford Motor Company, on stage during the NAIAS Automotive News World Congress in the Renaissance Ballroom on Tuesday.

Detroit — Ford Motor Co. is trailing plenty of competitors in the electric-vehicle market — and senior leaders at the Blue Oval said that might work in their favor when the company launches its new fully battery-powered vehicle next year.

"Our strategy is different," Jim Farley, Ford president of global markets, said Tuesday at the Automotive News World Congress in Detroit. "In a way we had the advantage of watching what happened the first time around. What customers have told us is 'Just give us the good stuff.'

"We're going to change a lot of people's minds."

Ford global product chief Hau Thai-Tang went so far Tuesday as to say in a presentation to Wolfe Research that Ford's electric-vehicle business won't be a drain on profitability. Automakers have historically had trouble making money on EVs.

The automaker plans to launch in 2020 a battery-electric vehicle with a 300-mile-plus range. The vehicle is "Mustang-inspired." Farley has said several times that essentially means it'll be a utility vehicle that goes fast.

The comments come days after Ford rolled out four all-new vehicles during the Detroit auto show, including the company's first-ever hybrid Explorer SUV. Ford is currently in the middle of a sweeping global restructuring as the Dearborn automaker readies for a new chapter in the automotive industry. Farley is responsible for several pieces of the changes.

Under CEO Jim Hackett, Ford's senior leadership is pushing to trim $25 billion in operating costs and spend $11 billion to shake up failing businesses in Europe, China and South America, and better position the automaker's North American business for continued profitability through the next decade.

Officials announced last week plans to revive its unprofitable European business by cutting salaried and hourly workers, ending production at plants in France and Germany, eliminating less-profitable vehicles like the C-Max from the lineup there, and possibly exiting a Russian joint venture.

Ford then on Tuesday announced it had entered an agreement with Germany's Volkswagen AG to partner on commercial vans and midsize pickup trucks to be sold outside of North America.The partnership is aimed at boosting Ford's European business, in part. 

Meantime, the automaker enters 2019 with a full hopper of new vehicle announcements and launches planned. Ford's midsize Ranger returned to showrooms this month. The all-new Aviator is on the way. The automaker also plans to launch its redesigned Explorer, all-new Escape and new Super Duty this year ahead of continued launches in 2020, which will include the long-awaited Bronco.

Twitter: @Ian_Thibodeau