Ford will spend up to $20 billion more in shift to electric vehicles
Ford will spend as much as $20 billion to reorganize its business for the electric future, according to Bloomberg. The automaker is also mulling whether to spin off some of its EV business as a special acquisition company (SPAC) in order to attract more investment. Ford has previously stated that it would spend $30 billion on electric and autonomous vehicle development by 2025.
Ford is reportedly putting former Apple and Tesla executive Doug Field in charge of the reorganization, which will include converting its factories from gas-powered to electric vehicle production and hiring more engineers. (General Motors, which is reporting its fourth-quarter earnings Tuesday evening, recently announced an initiative to hire 8,000 people to help staff up its EV efforts.)
Ford is immeshed in a high-stakes race against its rivals as the auto industry struggles to catch up to Tesla, the most valuable automaker in the world and the top seller of EVs. While Ford sells more F-series trucks every year than Tesla’s entire output, investors have rewarded Elon Musk’s vision of an all-electric future with a significantly higher share price and more confidence about his company’s prospects.
Ford CEO Jim Farley is trying to change that narrative with an effort to show that his company can compete. Ford recently announced that it was doubling production of its upcoming electric pickup truck, the F-150 Lightning, and tripling production for the Mustang Mach-E, with the expectation that it will reach over 200,000 units per year by 2023. Ford’s electric delivery van, the E-Transit, also goes on sale early this year.
As long as they start shipping on time, Ford will join Rivian and GMC as the only automakers with an electric pickup truck on the market. (Rivian started shipping its R1T pickup in October, while the first Hummer EVs reached customers at the end of the year.) Tesla’s long-promised Cybertruck has been pushed to next year, and CEO Elon Musk has said his company won’t start making them in large volumes until 2023.
As far as a potential SPAC, Bloomberg reports that Ford is considering spinning off a “small” piece of its EV business, possibly focused on its lower-volume vehicles. GM reportedly was mulling an EV SPAC for some time before eventually coming out against the idea. A spokesperson for Ford declined to comment on “rumor and speculation.”
SPACs have cooled in popularity as many of the EV startups that have gone public via reverse mergers have drawn scrutiny from federal regulators. The SEC is already investigating the SPAC mergers that turned Lordstown Motors, Canoo, and Nikola into publicly traded electric vehicle startups. The agency has been particularly focused on the validity of the financial projections these companies made when they announced the mergers, as well as any claims they made about the preorders collected for their vehicles.
The person reportedly who will be put in charge of this massive shift is Doug Field, who served as VP of special projects at Apple, where he was the de facto head of the company’s confused efforts to make an autonomous electric car — known as Project Titan. He had a previous stint at Apple, where he was once the VP of Mac hardware engineering, but he left the company in 2013 to become Tesla’s chief vehicle engineer, where he helped oversee the troublesome development of the Model 3 sedan. He left Tesla in 2018 and rejoined Apple.
Farley has set out to emulate Tesla in many respects, not just in the shift to EVs. The company is rallying behind a business plan it calls Ford Plus and intends to create more cars that are fully networked and can be updated over the air, like Teslas. Ford has also said that Google’s Android will power infotainment systems in “millions” of its cars starting in 2023.