Jim Farley is trying to rebuild Ford and join Elon Musk and Tesla – Reuters

Jim Farley is trying to rebuild Ford and join Elon Musk and Tesla – Reuters

On Tuesday afternoon, Jim Farley, chief executive of Ford Motor, boarded a car that could be one of the most important cars in the company’s 113-year history: the F-150 electric truck.

Sitting behind a model wheel on the test track of Dearborn company, Mr. Farley laid it on the floor. From the station, the 4,000-pound truck moved forward. “Four seconds,” he shouted as he reached 60 miles per hour. “It’s amazing for a car of this size.»

Leading the truck through a series of dips and elevations along the way, he said, “Let’s see if we can get some air” and shouted, “Yes!” with the wheels leaving the pavement briefly on the slope. In the final round, he circled the steep slope and kept it straight down until he hit 99 miles per hour – just a shame of the 100mph Track speed limit.

“I can’t wait,” Mr. Farley said as he walked out, shaking his head. “I can’t wait for customers to receive this truck. »

These are turbulent and exciting times for the automotive industry. Driven by Tesla’s dizzy success, sales of electric cars appear to be on the rise without a hitch. Changes from the manufacture of gas-powered cars and trucks to electric vehicles that do not emit back pollution will have a significant impact on the environment, climate change, public policy and the economy.

Automotive manufacturers are spending tens of billions of dollars to rehabilitate the industry and speed up re-training workers in what could be a major industrial revolution since Henry Ford revolutionized the manufacturing and moving assembly line in 1913. They are also fighting for a juggernaut that is Tesla.

The question for Ford is whether a young man from the Detroit area could take on Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla, whose company is growing rapidly and is valued by investors about 16 times more than Ford.

Tesla nearly doubled the number of cars sold worldwide last year to nearly one million. Ford sold more cars – about four million – but sales dropped by 6% as it struggled to find enough computer chips, batteries and other components. Tesla has a brand that people associate with luxury and technical skill. Ford is considered to be the manufacturer of large utility trucks and sports utility vehicles.

“The automotive automotive industry is far behind Tesla,” said Earl J. Hesterberg, chief executive of Group 1 Automotive, a leading automotive retailer, who has known Mr. Farley for two decades. “In the past, if you were back for a few years, the big players would follow you. But today, the pace of change is even greater.

Automotive experts say the electric F-150, known as Electricity, should be used if Ford is to thrive in the age of electric vehicles. The introduction of this truck is now tantamount to “gambling on the company,” said William C. Ford Jr., the company’s executive chairman, who is the grandson of Henry Ford. “If this launch doesn’t go well, we could ruin the whole business.”

The company has collected about 200,000 vacancies for these trucks, but could still stumble. Production can be reduced by the international shortage of chips or rising costs of lithium, nickel and other important battery raw materials. The software that Ford developed for the truck may have an error, a problem that banned the sale of the new Volkswagen electric car in 2020.

Ford and Mr. Farley are running. Unlike most other electric cars, the F-150 Electric is cheap – it starts at $ 40,000. Tesla’s cheapest car is the Model 3 compact sedan, which starts at over $ 48,000. Electricity has tons of storage, as well as a large front trunk, which attracts families and businesses with large truck ships. And it helps that Tesla does not start repairing its Cybertruck until next year.

And Ford is also already in the EV game with the Mustang Mach-E, an electric sports car. It garnered more than 27,000 sales in 2021, its first year on the market, and won good reviews.

Production of the F-150 Radius is expected to begin next Monday. Competitive models from General Motors, Stellantis and Toyota – Ford’s main rivals in trucks – have at least one year left. Rivian, a new car repair company that Ford has invested in, has started selling an electric truck but is struggling to increase production.

“If the launch of Electricity goes well, we have a great opportunity,” Ford said.

In many ways, Mr. Farley looks at a lot of boxes when it comes to leading the largest American car manufacturer. Like Mary T. Barra, general manager of GM, whose father worked at the Pontiac conference, Mr. Farley has family roots in the industry: his grandfather worked in a Ford factory. During a visit to his grandfather, he visited Ford factories and other places important to the company’s history. At the age of 15, he bought a Mustang while working in California one summer and drove it home to Michigan without a license. His grandfather nicknamed him “Jimmy Car-Car”.

But as Mr. Musk, a South African-born who was one of the founders of PayPal and other companies, Mr. Farley has had various careers and is involved in building a business. Born in Argentina while his father worked there as a bank employee, Mr Farley, 59, also lived in Brazil and Canada when he was growing up. His career did not start in the automotive industry but in IBM. He spent a long time in Toyota. He helped a Japanese car manufacturer overcome its boring and economical automotive reputation by developing its own luxury Lexus brand, which is now a large company.

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