Ford & Tesla: Go Figure

By Gary S. Vasilash

Jim Farley, Ford CEO, said to the assembled audience on hand for the production launch of the all-electric F-150 Lightning on April 26, “We plan to challenge Tesla and all comers to become the top EV maker in the world.

“That’s something that no one would have believed just two years ago from us. They’re going to look at this truck and believe it.”

That’s something I have a hard time believing right now.

Not that Ford doesn’t have a shot at becoming the lead EV builder at some unspecified time in the future. It probably will. Electric pickups and full-size crossovers will undoubtedly roll out of its dealerships in huge numbers one Ford has them.

But that a company that has pretty much been synonymous with “auto industry”–as it was established in 1903 and has had factories churning out cars, trucks and crossovers the world over for more than a century–uses Tesla as the point of comparison.

This is not to diminish the accomplishments of Tesla in any way. In 2021 it delivered more than 936,000 the world over.

While Tesla doesn’t break out its numbers by country, Cox Automotive estimates that the U.S. sales of its vehicles were 352,471 in 2021.

Ford had one EV in 2021, the Mustang Mach-E. It sold 27,140.

It’s not like Tesla just started selling cars last year. It has been on the market for more than 10.

Yes, it started out small.

And so was ignored by the traditional OEMs like Ford.

But Team Tesla kept at it and the traditional OEMs kept doing what they were doing by and large their efforts toward producing EVs were simply to meet regulations, not customers.

Now these companies (and know that it isn’t just Ford and GM, but even other stalwarts like Mercedes and BMW) have recognized that not only is Tesla selling a lot of vehicles, but that customers really want them, which is a good characteristic for products to have in a market.

It is sad that Farley (yes, he gets something of a pass as he didn’t become Ford CEO until October 2020) has to compare what the Ford Motor Company will do with Tesla.

One would like to think that the company founded by a guy who was certainly more advanced than many of his contemporaries would be the one other companies would be comparing themselves to, not Tesla.

Google & Ford: When Is a Customer a Partner?

Until December 13, 2016, what is now known as “Waymo,” the company that is developing “fully autonomous” vehicle technology, was known as the “Google Self-Driving Car Project.” In the four years since, Waymo has gone far beyond something that would be described as a “project.” What’s more, it has raised a few billion dollars in outside investment so it is no longer a Google—or more appropriately, an Alphabet—solo undertaking.

Alphabet is a huge company. A company with a market cap on the order of $1.29-trillion. It doesn’t break out the Waymo numbers, but it is now estimated that the company is worth some $30-billion.

Ford has a market cap of $42.6 billion.

Which puts it ahead of Waymo but way behind Alphabet.

And what’s interesting to note is that while Ford has had the number-one selling pickup truck for 44 years running—and sold 787,422 last year alone—Waymo has sold 0 anything.

However, Ford and Google announced that they’ve entered into “a unique strategic partnership.” I wonder how much this is like when an OEM comes out with a new vehicle and calls it the “First-ever [fill-in-the-name].” Of course it is the first-ever. There hasn’t been one.

(Image: Ford)

So Ford doing something extensive with Google is “unique” because they haven’t done it before.

Ford is buying space on the Google Cloud. This brings with it all sorts of opportunities in terms of data analytics and AI and, well, all that those giant clouds bring. Here’s one: it will help Ford “Fast track the implementation of data-driven business models.” Of course.

There will be a “new collaborative group” named “Team Upshift” that “will push the boundaries of Ford’s transformation, unlock personalized consumer experiences, and drive disruptive, data-driven opportunities.”

Ford will start using the Android operating system as the OS for its vehicles starting in 2023.

Ford president and CEO Jim Farley: “As Ford continues the most profound transformation in our history with electrification, connectivity and self-driving, Google and Ford coming together establishes an innovation powerhouse truly able to deliver a superior experience for our customers and modernize our business.”

Sundar Pichai, CEO of Google and Alphabet: “From the first moving assembly line to the latest driver-assist technology, Ford has set the pace of innovation for the automotive industry for nearly 120 years. We’re proud to partner to apply the best of Google’s AI, data analytics, compute and cloud platforms to help transform Ford’s business and build automotive technologies that keep people safe and connected on the road.”

To be sure, this is a big deal for Ford, especially as General Motors announced a similar(ish) deal with Microsoft a couple weeks ago. Perhaps the third shoe will fall and someone will announce a partnership with Amazon.

As for Google, well, they like customers partners. After all, how else to get to a valuation of over $1-trillion?–gsv