Ford is developing a low cost electric car in a skunkworks project.
The low cost electric car project is led by Ford’s Advanced EV development boss Alan Clarke and has been running for two years. It includes engineers from California battery management startup Auto Motive Power (AMP) that Ford acquired in November last year.
The skunkworks project was mentioned by Ford CEO Jim Farley at the annual results and follows a key partnership to share EV technology with Volkswagen. The move to a low cost EV platform is expected to include lower cost LFP batteries, more integrated chip through a partnership with GlobalFoundries and a software-defined architecture.
“We’re adjusting our capital, switching and more focused onto smaller EV products,” said Farley. “Now this is important because we made a bet in silence two years ago and we developed a super-talented skunkworks team to create a low-cost EV platform. It was a small group, a small team — some of the best EV engineers in the world — and it was separate from the Ford mothership. It was a startup and they’ve developed a flexible platform that will not only deploy to several types of vehicles, there will be a large install base for software and services.”
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The company saw total revenue of $176bn and profits of $4.3bn, reversing the losses of recent years.
Revenue at Ford’s Model e EV division grew, but the start-up division saw a loss of $4.7bn. This reflects an extremely competitive pricing environment, along with strategic investments in the development of clean-sheet, next-generation EVs says the company.
Sales volumes of the F-150 Lightning pickup and Mustang Mach-E SUV both were up year-over-year and respectively the top-selling electric pickup and No. 3 most popular EV of any type in the US for 2023.
Software-enabled services are also key to Ford’s recovery. Total paid software subscriptions across all segments rose 8% sequentially in the fourth quarter to about 630,000.
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During 2023, the company expanded availability of Ford’s BlueCruise advanced driver-assistance system to Great Britain, Germany and Spain, alongside the US and Canada. More than 290,000 BlueCruise-equipped Ford and Lincoln vehicles are now on the road, with customer use exceeding 2.3 million hours and 156 million hands-free miles..
“We’re seeing green shoots of quality improvement, including in our new-product launches – with several important ones coming up this year,” said Ford Chief Operating Officer Kumar Galhotra. “Across our global industrial system we’ve identified and will land $2 billion in cost reductions, in areas like material, freight and manufacturing – and we’re just getting started.”