About a decade ago, the electric vehicle entries were a farce. Simply an inconvenience for car companies. Expensive and slow-selling automakers shut up and built them anyway, largely due to regulatory pressures to offset the perceived carbon footprint of popular pickup trucks and SUVs. Ten years later, we are seeing an unprecedented commitment from automakers to build next-generation electric vehicles in multiple segments, including full-size pickup trucks, commercial vehicles, and even performance cars. Ford Motor Company is a prime example of this, ranging from the unsatisfactory 115-mile Ford Focus EV to the 300-plus-mile Mustang Mach-E electric SUV to the upcoming F-150 Lightning full-size electric pickup truck.
What was the trigger for this shift in priorities? If you ask Hau Thai-Tang, the managing director of Ford Motor Company, it was “Tesla”.
“Tesla has shown that electric cars can be ambitious and that people are willing to pay for them,” said Hau Thai-Tang in an interview with Muscle Cars & Trucks.
Hau Thai-Tang is currently Chief Product Platform and Operations Officer for Ford Motor Company. Previously, he was Chief Product Development & Purchasing Officer at Ford and was responsible for overseeing all aspects of product design, engineering, and purchasing worldwide. He reports to Ford boss Jim Farley.
Copyright Steven Pham, Muscle Cars & Trucks.
How Ford Motor Company is fighting Tesla
Tesla may be the brand for the nouveau riche and pseudo-tech cultists (stop calling a Level 2 ADAS system “autopilot”), but it’s perfectly clear that Elon Musk and the Tesla Stans are shaping the landscape of the automotive industry could have changed forever. However, automakers like Ford Motor Company are prepared for this and have since made serious strides in the path that Tesla has paved, albeit crude.
“We have the scales. We can reuse the motors, the battery cells, the inverters, the chargers in the vehicles – we have a lot of standards, ”explained Thai-Tang. “But the rest of a drive-independent vehicle: the chassis, interior, seats, IP, HVAC can be shared with our ICE vehicles (combustion engine). We have built five million vehicles, Tesla is trying to get to one million. “
The Ford Mustang Mach-E electric SUV is current evidence of how serious the automaker is with electric vehicles these days. Leveraging the Mustang branding, design language, and rather impressive vehicle dynamics, the controversial SUV has managed to generate enough interest and sales to undermine the market share of the Tesla Model 3, its direct competitor.
The next chapter in Ford’s EV history will be the Ford F-150 Lightning electric pickup, which currently holds over 120,000 reservations. Unlike the Tesla Cybertruck, the F-150 Lightning retains a more accessible design language and has all of the features that mass market fleet companies demand from their trucks. It even has a real steering wheel. The Lightning also uses the legacy of the past F-150 Lightning Sport Truck and lives up to its name with a 0-60 time of just 4.4 seconds. A metric that President Joe Biden has given the media.
Copyright Steven Pham, Muscle Cars & TrucksCopyright Steven Pham, Muscle Cars & Trucks
Others tried, few made it
Despite Ford Motor Company’s commitment – $ 30 billion to develop electric vehicles by 2030 – there is still the argument that people don’t really want electric vehicles, they just want a Tesla. Look no further than the volatile sales of many European electric vehicle launches to dethrone Elon’s EV company off its peg – which would happen to many analysts, however. It hasn’t gone as well as hoped so far, with total electric vehicle sales in the U.S. declining as much as 11 percent in 2020 (although we owe that to the pandemic). Even so, Hau Thai Tang believes Tesla would still be a very up-and-coming product even if it didn’t produce electric vehicles.
“If Tesla had an ICE vehicle, but its electrical architecture with over-the-air updates and ‘autopilot’, would these be attractive? I think so, ”he said.
Ironically, Hau Thai-Tang was once approached by Tesla as CEO of the company in 2007, according to Power Play: Tesla, Elon Musk and the Bet of the Century, a recent book by Wall Street Journal reporter Tim Higgins. At the end of 2007, the company finally appointed Ze’ev Drori as CEO, who was replaced by Elon Musk just a year later.
Copyright Steven Pham, Muscle Cars & Trucks.
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