Ford ups investment in self-driving and electric cars to $29B

Ford plans to spend up big in the areas of electric vehicles and self-driving technology, CEO Jim Farley said Thursday during a conference call detailing the automaker’s 2020 financial results.

Key measures mentioned by the new Ford CEO include an increase in spending on EVs to $22 billion through 2025, up from a previously announced $11.5b. The figure includes investments already made in EVs since about 2016.

“We are accelerating all our plans, breaking constraints, increasing battery capacity, improving costs and getting more electric vehicles into our product cycle plan,” he said.

Deliveries of the Mustang Mach-E have just started and electric versions of the Transit van and F-150 pickup truck are coming in late 2021 and mid-2022, respectively. Ford is also known to be developing an EV based on Volkswagen Group’s MEB modular platform for sale in Europe. It’s due in 2023 and the automaker is currently studying a second MEB-based vehicle.

Farley also said EVs would be “fundamental” to Lincoln in the coming years during the call.

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Jim Farley

Jim Farley

In the area of self-driving tech, Farley said Ford will increase its investment to $7 billion through 2025. The figure includes investments of about $2 billion that Ford has already made, particularly in self-driving technology startup Argo AI which Ford is a key investor in together with VW Group.

Argo AI is developing a system rated at Level 4 on the SAE scale of self-driving capability and recently started testing a fourth-generation prototype. Level 4 cars can operate without the need for a human behind the wheel, though only in set conditions, the main one typically being a geofenced area.

Ford is expected to be the first company to offer a commercial service using Argo AI’s self-driving system, currently targeted for deployment in 2022.

Ford is well-suited to make these major investments. The automaker ended 2020 with almost $31 billion in cash and is on track to generate between $8b and $9b in EBIT in 2021.

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In related news, Ford also said Thursday that it had canceled plans for a joint venture with Zotye to develop EVs for the Chinese market. It follows Ford’s decision in January to end a similar deal with Mahindra & Mahindra to develop EVs and SUVs for the Indian market.

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