Ford Chairman Bill Ford’s vision for a green auto industry is finally on the horizon

Ford Chairman Bill Ford's vision for a green auto industry is finally on the horizon

Ford President Bill Ford speaks during the unveiling of the F-150 Lightning electric pickup truck outside the automaker’s global headquarters on May 19, 2021 in Dearborn, Michigan.

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DETROIT – Ten years ago, Ford Motor was positioned to be a leader in electrified vehicles with new global models like the C-Max and Focus Electric.

Ford Chairman Bill Ford wrote in a May 2011 article for Fortune magazine that these “green” cars were to lead the automaker’s efforts to potentially electrify 25% of its fleet by 2020. They won’t. did not and what Ford considered a start-up, Tesla, became the industry benchmark for zero-emission vehicles, and its crosstown rival General Motors became the first carmaker inherited from Wall Street for electric vehicles.

New Ford CEO Jim Farley, who took office on October 1, announced a tough shift to electric vehicles soon after as the automaker released an all-electric Mustang crossover and an upcoming F-150. While new electric vehicles have been well received, Ford must strive for a leadership position among old and new competitors.

This is something Bill Ford, the great-grandson of the company’s founder, is well aware of. A green automotive industry has always been one of their missions. As the longest-serving environmentalist and president of all auto manufacturers, he has been a rare champion, or conscience, of green practices in the industry.

This is something that was historically taboo, if not discouraged, in a company that relies on fossil fuels to generate its profits and its products and its big trucks.

But that is changing. With the promise of electric vehicles and Wall Street’s backing for more sustainable businesses, Ford is confident that its decades-old vision of a green auto industry and business can finally be realized. And investors have taken notice, pushing Ford shares up nearly 50% in 2021.

“When I joined the company in 1979, I emerged as someone who cared deeply about the environment, and I was completely surprised that this idea was not only shared with rather, but it was clearly despised. within the company, ”he told CNBC in a video. . Maintenance. “All of that has changed now. And, yes, that makes me really excited.

Bill Ford admits that the company’s first “green cars” may not have had the success he wanted at the time. But he believes that the acceptance of electric vehicles by industry and consumers is changing and that his drive for a more sustainable industry was right.

“Maybe it wasn’t the right time, maybe they weren’t quite ready for prime time when they came out, but frankly, it was the perfect thing to do.” Ford said.

Ford vs. Trump

It hasn’t always been easy for a 64-year-old auto heir to do the “right thing”. Their support for both the environment and industry has always been at odds and has been criticized by supporters on both sides.

Most recently, former President Donald Trump publicly denounced Bill Ford and his company last year for agreeing to stricter fuel economy and emissions standards with California.

Ford was the only American automaker to do so at the time. Ford’s biggest rival, General Motors, backed the Trump administration before changing its stance to back California after Joe Biden, a proponent of electric vehicles and stricter vehicle emissions rules, defeated Trump.

President Donald Trump wears a mask as he privately sees three Ford GTs over the years at the Ford plant in Rawsonville.

NBC News

“It’s important to stand up for things. We have taken a stance on the environment that has not always been popular and in many cases has gone against what the rest of our industry has done, ”said Ford, whose career has covered seven US presidents. Extended, said. “And that’s okay because it lets you know who you are.”

Farley, who joined Ford in 2007, called this sense “absolutely” essential for the automaker and its plans for the future. The company is expected to publish more information soon on its sustainability plans and how they relate to their new Ford + turnaround plan.

Fred Krupp, chairman of the Environmental Defense Fund, said the company’s support for California emissions standards and the Paris climate agreement were two of the most recent examples of Bill Ford’s leadership in the ‘industry.

“He was a leader,” Krupp, who has known Ford for 20 years, said in a telephone interview. “I can’t think of another American auto executive who has done more to advance the problem than Bill.”

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Despite the president’s backing for electric vehicles and the environment, the automaker did not say when it plans to convert its entire lineup to electric vehicles, unlike rival GM, which has said it plans to convert its entire lineup to electric vehicles. to switch to all-electric by 2035. Formerly. Ford has said it expects 40% of its global sales volume to be fully electric vehicles by 2030.

Bill Ford said it would ultimately depend on consumers how quickly electric vehicles were adopted, but more investment and new products would help. Ford’s current lineup includes plug-in hybrid electric vehicles with gasoline engines as well as the Mustang Mach-E crossover – its only electric vehicle.

“Our customers will really decide how quickly this happens,” said Ford. “But I’ll tell you we’ll be ready when that happens.” We work incredibly hard. You will see more announcements from us in the near future.

Ford Motor Executive Chairman Bill Ford, left, and actor Idris Elba, stand next to Ford’s all-electric Mustang Mach-E GT SUV at the Los Angeles Jet Center on Sunday, November 17, 2019 in Hawthorne, California. Elba, who previously worked at Ford. The automobile company helped bring this vehicle to the public in the 1980s.

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Ford has at least two more electric vehicles coming by the middle of next year – a commercial van later this year and an electric version of the F-150 pickup called the Lightning. The new electric vehicles are part of Ford’s plan to invest more than $ 30 billion in electric vehicles by 2025, of which around $ 7 billion had already been invested since February.

Ford said it was “very confident” that the automaker could be a leader in electric vehicles. He also believes that there will be some consolidation in the auto industry, as a barrage of new attempts from competitors everywhere.

“We are clearly a rapidly changing industry and I think if we move forward very quickly in 10 years there will clearly be winners and losers in this new world of electric vehicles,” [autonomous vehicles] and software, ”he said. “I think the winners might not be all those familiar faces that people might have thought of.

“I mean, take a look at a company like Tesla, which is a very young company and has been incredibly successful. There will be others like that.

In addition to its own investments in electric vehicles, Ford is a minority investor in electric truck start-up Rivian, which filed an initial public offering last week. The company is reportedly looking for a valuation of $ 80 billion, which gives the young company a valuation of $ 51 billion higher than Ford and $ 71 billion higher than GM.

RJ Scaring, founder and CEO of Rivian, and executive chairman of Ford, Bill Ford, announced a $ 500 million Ford investment in Rivian.

Source: Ford Motor Company

get their sight

Electric vehicles aren’t the only part of Bill Ford’s vision for a green future. He believes that the manufacturing and supply chain of autonomous vehicles and the industry also need to be reworked.

He said more needs to be done to reduce the industry’s overall carbon footprint, including using more renewable energy to produce vehicles, as well as self-driving vehicles that can reduce public transport problems and global dead ends. . can.

“We don’t need to be 100% in any of these areas, but if I think we’re on the right track in all of these areas, and I think that’s the start, but yeah, we’re going down There are all these roads. Yeah, so I’d love that, “he said.

While the switch to electric vehicles is still in its infancy, the 64-year-old is not after a 40-year career with automaker Ford. However, he has no plans to step down from the company for the foreseeable future, although a younger generation of Ford is joining the board. His daughter, Alexandra Ford English, and her nephew, Henry Ford III, were both elected to the company’s board of directors in May.

“I feel like I’m adding value to Ford today, probably more than ever,” said Ford. “As long as I feel like I’m contributing and can work at the rate the company asks me to work, I’ll be there. Someday that won’t happen and I think I’ll find out that’s when it will.

Ford Motor Company today announced that Alexandra Ford English and Henry Ford III have been nominated for election to the company’s board of directors at the annual meeting of shareholders on May 13.

Source: Ford Motor Company

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