Having invested more into plug-in hybrids than battery electric cars, Ford seems to have ceded the market to more serious contenders for now. But new CEO Mark Fields told USA Today that Ford could built an electric car to compete with Tesla, and such a product would be “consistent with our product philosophy.”
Fields replaced Alan Mulally this summer after the former Boeing CEO gave Ford a top-to-bottom makeover that included shrugging off all but two brands and cutting down on the number of platforms to just a few. But one area Mulally seemed disinterested in was pure electric vehicles, giving the Focus Electric a tiny marketing budget but one of the highest MSRPs at $39,995. Ford has since slashed $10,000 off the price of its sole electric car, but it’s done measurably more to promote its two plug-in hybrid models, the Fusion Energi and C-Max Energi.
In a conference call to investors on Friday, Fields said his company could build a larger all-electric sedan with the performance to match the Model S, though it wouldn’t be a hatchback like the Tesla, but it would fit Ford’s core mission of focusing on high-tech vehicles. While not confirming the company was working towards this goal, he did admit that Ford engineers had bought a Tesla Model S, driven it and taken it apart before putting it back together. GM was also caught testing a Tesla against the Cadillac ELR, demonstrating that conventional automakers are just as intrigued by Elon Musk’s electric car as the general buying public.
Ford recently fought Tesla over the Model E trademark, though it’s hard to imagine any car in the current Ford lineup being easily converted into an EV. Perhaps the most promising idea is to build a battery electric vehicle for Lincoln on a dedicated platform, which would allow Ford to charge a premium price, fill the role of being a Tesla competitor, and give the droll Lincoln lineup a desperately needed halo model to give people something to talk about. Ford has taken a lot of steps in the name of going green, but their vehicle lineup is still overly-reliant on fossil fuels.
With a new CEO at its head, might Ford find a renewed focus on electric vehicles? That’d be one way to win my favor back.