Ford declares it will double funding for electric, self-driving cars
Ford’s push to change its brand perceptions and become a mainstream tech powerhouse have continued with confirmation of a US$29billion investment in electric self-driving tech development through to 2025.
Ford has been on something of a hot streak when it comes to EVs and tech. It’s fully electric Mach-E has well and truly landed, with buzz already existing for its Transit-E and F-150 commercial BEVs. Just a week ago it also announced an alliance with Google, which will see the two brands sharing information and tech in the coming years.
The anatomy of that $29b figure takes some explaining. In 2018 the firm announced a US$11.5billion investment for the four-year period to 2022. It’s now boosted the investment total to US$22b, while also tacking on another US$7b for autonomous car development.
According to reports, the spend will mostly be devoted to funding the development of new EVs, although hybrids and plug-in hybrids will continue to factor. EV battery cell development is also apparently a point of interest according to the rumour mill. If successful, it could see Ford become a battery supplier for other marques, or perhaps it could develop home systems similar to those sold by Tesla.
On the autonomous car side, Ford's long-time partnership with Argo AI is likely to see a healthy injection of funding. The pairing is meant to launch a self-driving service in 2022, although it's unclear whether this is on schedule following the impacts of Covid-19.
This is the latest chapter in Ford North America’s pattern of aggressive change. A few years ago it responded to the popularity of pick-ups and sedans by wiping out all traditional-shape cars from its American line-up, save for the Mustang.
There’s signs in the US that Ford’s pitching and rolling is paying off in the showroom. While it made a net loss of US$1.3b in 2020, the company confirmed that its fourth-quarter 2020 earnings totalled an impressive US$1.9b — three times its fourth-quarter earnings in 2019.
While in the eyes of some Ford had a fairly big 2020, following the launches and arrivals of the Mach-E, Bronco, Shelby GT500, Puma, and more, the firm is also still seen as being behind the eight ball when it comes to electrification and autonomy in its home market.
Tesla is commonly seen as dominating both sides of the coin, with General Motors’ Cadillac division also having become a prolific name in the autonomous driving stakes thanks to its ‘Super Cruise’ technology.