Ford Reveals Secret Team Working on Low-Cost EVs

CEO Jim Farley said it will help Ford better compete with Tesla and Chinese OEMs

Ford’s best-selling electric vehicle so far is the full-size F-150 Lightning. But the company just revealed secret plans for developing smaller, less expensive EVs.

During the automaker’s fourth-quarter earnings call this week, CEO Jim Farley said his company “made a bet in silence two years ago.”

“We developed a super-talented skunkworks team to create a low-cost EV platform. It was a small group, small team, some of the best EV engineers in the world, and it was separate from the Ford mothership. It was a start-up,” Farley said.

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The skunkworks team has developed a flexible platform that Ford hopes will not only deploy for several types of vehicles but also serve as a large installed base for software and services. That focus on cost and efficiency is what Farley said will help Ford better compete with Tesla and Chinese OEMs.

That competition with Tesla extends to personnel as well. Alan Clarke, who spent more than 12 years in various engineering roles at Tesla, has been leading the skunkworks team at Ford, according to TechCrunch.

Model e, Ford’s electric vehicle business, lost $1.57 billion in 2023, up from $939 million over 2022. The growing pains during the automaker’s shift toward EVs has resulted in production being scaled back on the F-150 Lightning, a move that impacted approximately 1,400 employees at the company’s Electric Vehicle Center in Dearborn, Michigan.

Ford has subsequently lowered expectations for global EV sales growth in 2024. That adjusted forecast comes in part because of what Farley called a “seismic change” in demand for EVs in the back half of 2023. The industry has largely burned through the demand driven by early adopters, who were willing to pay a premium, and it now needs to address a new consumer category who aren’t interested in high-priced vehicles.

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