As reported by the Detroit Free Press, Ford is planning to invest $4.5 billion in the development of over a dozen new electric vehicles by 2020 and a fully autonomous car by 2021. CEO Mark Fields warned investors in September that the new investments would contribute to a dip in profits for 2017, but the company is reorienting itself for a changing auto industry and transportation future.
With competition against Silicon Valley auto disruptors as well as General Motors’ strong plays in electric vehicle development, Fields appears to be recognizing the importance of changing the way Ford thinks about transportation. As part of an effort to be both vehicle manufacturer and transportation-service provider, Ford is investing self-driving car technology, electric vehicle development and purchasing ride sharing services. Ford expects autonomous vehicles to account for up to 20% of vehicle sales by 2030.
While Ford isn’t building hype for a long range electric vehicle like the Bolt or Model 3, the company’s ambition to deliver a full slate of EVs puts it in a unique positon. As an automaker specializing in trucks, SUVs, vans and commercial vehicles, we should expect some electric action in those segments which have so far been overshadowed by electric sedans and cross-overs.
Many think Ford’s plan will succeed, eventually, if the expanded line of EVs they produce are solid competitors and push technology forward in the market. At least for now, the thinking seems to be in that direction, with its view that personal mobility is beginning to move away from private ownership and towards on-demand ridesharing services. And, according to the Wall Street Journal, Ford is making moves like buying a stake in a laser-sensor company, working with a bike-sharing firm and acquiring the van shuttle service Chariot. These seem like concrete steps towards an electric and autonomous future Built by Michigan.