Alan Clarke, who used to be in charge of both Tesla and Ford’s Advanced EV development, is now in charge of a Ford skunkworks project to make a cheap electric car.
A “skunkworks” team has been set up to make a “low-cost” electric vehicle platform, Ford CEO Jim Farley said briefly during the company’s fourth-quarter results call on Tuesday. Since then, TechCrunch has revealed that Clarke is in charge of the skunkworks project. The project has been going for about two years and is based in Irvine, California. It has engineers from Auto Motive Power (AMP), the EV power startup that the car company bought in November 2023. AMP’s founder Anil Paryani is also working on the skunkworks project. He and Clarke worked together at Tesla for about five years.
A third-generation EV is being made by the skunkworks project. A Ford representative refused to give more information about the project or when it would be finished. But based on what Farley said Tuesday and a year ago, it seems likely that the skunkworks project is focused on cost, making EVs smaller, and making the battery more efficient.
During the earnings call, Farley said, “We’re also changing how we spend our money and putting more of our attention on smaller EV products.” “This is important because we made a bet in secret two years ago and put together a group of very skilled people to make a cheap electric vehicle platform.” Some of the best EV experts in the world worked on this small group, which was separate from the main Ford company. It was a startup, and they made a flexible platform that can be used on a number of different types of vehicles. It will also have a big install base for software and services, which we can now see at Pro (the company’s commercial unit).
In the past few months, Ford has slowed down some of its plans to invest in electric cars (EVs). For example, it has delayed $12 billion in investments because demand for some types of EVs is falling while demand for hybrids is rising. The car company is still putting money into new goods, though. Farley showed off information about its second-generation EV platform in May of last year. The T3 electric truck and three-row SUV that will go into production in 2025 will be built on this platform.
“All of our EV teams are laser-focused on making sure that our products are as cheap and efficient as possible,” Farley said. “The most important competitors will be the affordable Tesla and the Chinese OEMs.”
Ford split its business into three separate units in 2022: Ford Pro, which is for commercial use, Ford Blue, which is for traditional internal combustion engines and hybrids, and Ford Model e, which is for connectivity and electric cars.
Ford Pro has grown and sales of gas-powered and hybrid cars have helped the company make money. Ford’s earnings are still being hurt by its EV business.
Ford said on Tuesday that its sales for the fourth quarter of 2023 were $46 billion, up 4.5% from the same time last year. Of that, $26.2 billion came from Ford Blue, which was the most profitable, and $15.4 billion came from Ford Pro. Ford’s electric vehicle (EV) unit, Ford e, made $1.6 billion, and Ford Credit made $2.7 billion.
Ford lost $526 million, or 13 cents per share, in the fourth quarter. This is different from the same time last year, when the company made $1.3 billion, or 32 cents per share. A reorganization of its overseas operations and extra costs connected to its employee pension plans were the main reasons for the loss.
After making changes, the business made $1.05 billion in the fourth quarter and $10.4 billion for the whole year.
The company said it plans to make between $10 billion and $12 billion in adjusted pre-tax earnings. This was a better-than-expected prediction that helped shares rise 6.3% after the market closed.
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