EVs, Ford, Transformation, and When it’s in Your DNA…

The important

  • When it is in your DNA, you focus on it relentlessly and reinforce its importance, it shines through in the products and services you create, regardless of the technology.
  • Ultimately, when it comes to focusing hearts and minds, a business is shaped by customer outcomes. When companies focus on outcomes for the customer, good things happen, even in transitions.
  • Transformation is not just about one thing, it is about assessing the entire portfolio, structure, and operation of a company

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Discussion

Over the last couple of weeks I have been looking at new cars. I last purchased a car in 2009, before the current EV era. That car has been reliable and a pleasure to own, but it was time for a change. I test drove a wide range of cars, both in terms of styles of cars and manufactuers. I could easily have ended up purchasing a Ford Edge sport/ST, a Kia Sportage, or any number of Japanese, Korean, and European gas/oil propelled sedans or SUVs; even some hybrids caught my attention. In the end, I found a good deal on a new EV (electric vehicle). The combination of fun drive (low-end torque), government rebates, and low-operating costs added to whatever other reasons I might have for driving an EV. One thing I will miss is the fun of selecting gears, though I can at least play with the battery regen flippers.

I am not the first person in America to acquire an EV, and I won’t be the last. However, buying an EV is still a complex decision, as there remains few affordable choices for the average American. Car sales are still trending towards SUVs and trucks. Having driven a few over the last couple of weeks, I understand the appeal. These cars ride high on the road, have plenty of room to spread out and relax, have all the modern tech, in some cases even all the modern safety tech, and really provide a luxurious driver experience. I was recently driving a twin-cab pickup for a couple of weeks. Man, talk about a nice chill, just puttering around the mixed residential / farming community I live in, was kind of cool. Ok, enough of my “neanderthal” emotional musings 😉

One manufacturer really stuck out for me during this odyssey to find a new car. My first car was a Ford, and it was interesting to get acquainted with the brand again. I’ve always had a soft spot in my heart for Ford. They were one of the main players in the Touring car racing seen when I was growing up in Australia, and of course, like every teenager of that era, I was besotted with their V8s, no less so for the Mad Max movie series which highlight a really bad ass Ford.

Ford have embarked on a transformation that has many of the elements you would expect in a well thought out transformation: restructuring the workforce, reducing the number of platforms, actually getting rid of products that are not performing well, investing heavily in new growth areas – AVs (autonomous vehicles) and EVs, exploring strategic alliances, and aligning the organizational structure to the new strategy. This is not a half-hearted transformation, this is am holistic transformation. Of course, some of the decisions were made quite easy by declining sedan sales all across the auto industry. The trend is towards SUVs and trucks. By some estimates, SUVs will account for half of all cars sold by 2020, and being 40% of the global market by 2025. This makes Ford’s decision to slim down its sedan line up and focus on SUVs and Trucks much easier – half of a good strategy is being in the right market.

But there was something else that stuck me about Ford. I drove the 4 cylinder, 2.3L, turbo Mustang. It was a fun ride. Ok, I enjoyed riding a peppy stick, that is for sure. But this was not a V8, it was a 4 cyclinder, and it was putting out 300 hp, and creating a great driver experience. Of course, from Formula 1, to consumer cars, we have seen more Turbos being bolted on to get greater fuel efficiency, and some cars even have small twin turbos to reduce turbo lag time. The thought I walked away with though, is here is an iconic American car brand, Mustang, built on the back of monster engines, but still able to create a great driver experience, with a different technology base, sans the special sound of a V8 (despite the faux electronic attempts at simulating it). A 4 cylinder Mustang is not everyone’s idea of a real “Mustang”, but it is a Mustang that more people can afford to have fun driving, and still get reasonable mpg. When you are really focused on a customer value proposition/outcome, it shines through, no matter the technology base. The Ford Mustang Ecosport has been a successful offering.

Driving the 2.7L V6 turbo Ford Edge was fun as well. That thing pumps out 330 hp, and really moves well for a big heavy car. In Ford’s transformation plans, they have stated they will deliver a sporty SUV EV by 2020***. I am willing to buy into the idea that they will. Not just because we all know, and many have experienced, the low-end torque of EVs, but also because I believe that when something is in a company’s DNA, and that DNA is repeatedly reinforced and focused on, then some things just come more naturally, regardless of the technology base.

Ford is going where the market is going, but also leaning in, where it’s DNA can make a difference. Sport sedans, Sport SUVs, as well as work-horse trucks. I did not purchase a Ford EV this time, but I am very interested to see how Ford’s transformation goes. My instinct is it will go well*, and certainly, I am emotionally in their corner. I hope they do well. More AV and EV choices is a win for everyone. Especially if they come with great driving experiences and without compromising what car buyers want**.

* Note – bohcay does not currently cover the auto industry, this blog represents a personal reflection from the author

** Note – what Tesla has done to build great cars and draw attention to the potential of EVs to offer great driver experiences is worth special mention, but did not fit into the flow of this blog. Perhaps a blog for another time. Tesla is clearly a company shaped by mission, and shaped by a strong commitment to great driver experiences. There was more than one dealer I visited recently who said the future was EVs. Tesla has played a significant role in this mindshift.

*** Rivian, who has already developed a truck and SUV platform, recently announced a $500 million dollar investment by Ford.

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