Is Ford’s increase in EV investment a shot across GM’s bow?

Ford’s Q4 2020 earnings report included an announcement that the automaker will increase its investments in electrification to at least $22 billion through 2025, nearly twice the previously-announced level (the company also committed an additional $7 billion to autonomous vehicle tech).

As auto analyst John Voelcker pointed out, Ford’s figure tops GM’s announced investment of $27 billion for EVs and AVs. Are we seeing the emergence of an EV rivalry between Ford and GM?

Along with every other legacy (non-Tesla) automaker, Ford had a crappy 2020, although the picture did start to improve later in the year. The company reported a quarterly net loss of $2.8 billion on $36 billion in revenue. The bright spots for the year included the start of deliveries of the electric Mustang Mach-E, and the unveiling of the upcoming E-Transit electric van.

Even brighter news: we may be seeing the first signs of a major automaker treating EVs as a profit center instead of an R&D project. As part of its “plan to turn around the company’s automotive business and improve profitability,” Ford cited “investing in strategic areas like EVs, connected services and autonomous vehicles—the returns on which are expected to further fortify the balance sheet and fuel growth.”

Ford is definitely talking the talk. CEO Jim Farley said the company is “all in” on electrification, “and will not cede ground to anyone.”

“We are accelerating all our plans—increasing battery capacity, improving costs and getting more electric vehicles into our product cycle plan,” Farley continued.  The Mustang Mach-E, which is receiving great customer and critical reviews, will be followed by the first E-Transit commercial van (in late 2021) and an all-electric F-150 pickup (mid-2022).

Farley says dedicated manufacturing capacity for EVs will expand around the world. The company is currently producing EVs, or plans to do so soon, in Michigan (F-150); Missouri (E-Transit); two plants in Canada (SUVs); Mexico and China (Mach-E), and other locations will follow.

“The transformation of Ford is happening, and so is our leadership of the EV revolution and development of autonomous driving,” said Mr. Farley. “We’re now allocating a combined $29 billion in capital and tremendous talent to these two areas, and bringing customers high-volume, connected electric SUVs, commercial vans and pickup trucks.”

Will GM raise the bet soon? Which automaker will take the position of America’s #2 EV-builder? Well, it’s way too early to do any handicapping, but we’ll note that each of the two giants has its own strengths in the electric arena. GM has a promising new electric platform and plans for a plethora of plug-in products. Ford, on the other hand, has an exciting new EV on the market now—the Mach-E is timely, stylish, practical and comparatively affordable, and it has the potential to go high-volume. GM, meanwhile, seems to have lost interest in its (also practical and affordable) Bolt EV—the company’s latest inane Super Bowl ad refers to two low-volume halo vehicles that won’t be on sale for a year or two, and never mentions the Bolt.

Source: Ford