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Ford’s Response To Big Auto Criticism From Tesla Co-Founder

At the end of my recent interview with Mike Tinskey, Ford’s global director of vehicle electrification and vehicle infrastructure, I brought up comments made by Tesla co-founder Marc Tarpenning regarding the internal barriers major car companies (like Ford) face in transitioning to EVs. A key source of those barriers is that these companies now outsource much of the manufacturing (including all of the main electrical stuff, according to Marc), but have kept the engine work in-house, leaving that as the real bread and butter or essence of their competitive advantage. Marc indicated that major auto companies have been getting more serious about electric vehicles within the past few years (for example, many have moved their EV budgets from their PR and advanced propulsion programs to their drive-train programs), but that they are still a long way off from embracing the shift. I asked Mike if he could say a bit about how Ford was approaching the EV transition at this point, about one year after introducing the C-Max Energi and Fusion Energi, plug-in hybrid electric cars that have seen pretty good sales results, together nearly surpassing sales of the Chevy Volt in November and far surpassing sales of the Toyota Prius Plug-in Hybrid. Unfortunately, we got cut off right as Mike started to answer the question (a problem on my end). The good news is that gave Mike more time to respond at length and in text. Here’s what Mike had to say in response to that super long lead-in:

Ford’s electrification strategy foresees a future that includes different types of electrified vehicles, depending on customers’ needs. ​Ford​ believe​s​ that offering a range of electrified vehicles is the best way to reduce CO2 emissions, deliver leading fuel economy across our lineup and meet different customers’ transportation needs. ​​To do this, we are electrifying global vehicle lines rather than creating a single, special electrified vehicle model. This allows our customers to choose from a variety of electrified vehicle powertrains in a range of vehicle segments, including sedans, utility vehicles, and luxury vehicles.

We are basing our electrified vehicle products on our highest-volume global platforms. This approach offers tremendous opportunities for production economies of scale. For example, the Focus Electric, C-MAX Energi, and C-MAX Hybrid are based on Ford’s next-generation compact, or “C-car” platform, and are being built alongside gas-powered Focus models at Ford’s Michigan Assembly Plant. This plant is the first in the world to build vehicles with five different fuel-efficient powertrain technologies on the same line.

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