Automobile

GM, Ford locked in EV spending race

Ford projects that 40 percent of its global sales will be electric by 2030. But in what CEO Jim Farley has called the “early innings” of electrification, the company is focusing on commercial products such as the E-Transit van and F-150 Lightning to leverage Ford’s segment-leading market share in those areas.

Last week, Ford announced the acquisition of fleet charging provider Electriphi, which it said could help generate more than $1 billion in annual revenue by 2030.

Farley took a veiled jab at GM’s ever-rising EV investment plans in defending Ford’s strategy.

“It’s not just how much money you spend or how vertically integrated you are, it’s where you want to play,” he said last week at the same Deutsche Bank conference where GM’s Jacobson spoke. “Play to your strengths, choose your market wisely, and execute the product beyond propulsion. That’s the lesson of F-150 Lightning so far.”

Farley said Ford has more than 30,000 reservations just for the commercial versions of the electric F-150, which debuts next year, and the E-Transit, which will be out this year. Pointing to strong demand for the new Mustang Mach-E electric crossover this year as well, Farley said EVs are expanding the company’s customer base.

“If you look at Ford right now, 70 to 80 percent of the people ordering these new vehicles from us, we’ve never seen,” Farley said. “A very big chunk of these customers wouldn’t have bought an ICE from Ford.”

GM, for its part, is creating a brand of commercial EVs called BrightDrop and last week said its increased EV spending will include the addition of “new electric commercial trucks and other products” in North America.

Jacobson, an industry newcomer who was CFO of Delta Air Lines until last fall, nodded to Ford’s unveiling of the F-150 Lightning, calling it a “really well-received, really strong announcement,” and encouraged other automakers to do the same to help stoke EV demand.

“The reality is we need OEMs to step up and make sure the EV volume is out there for the journey the country and really the world is on right now,” he said.

But Jacobson dismissed any notion that GM is worried that Ford will have an advantage in the electric pickup segment. GM is planning an electric version of its Chevrolet Silverado, but it is not expected to debut before 2023, and the company’s first battery-powered pickup — the GMC Hummer supertruck — will cost more than $112,000 when it arrives this fall. The F-150 Lightning ranges from less than $42,000 to more than $90,000.

“I don’t know that we’re intimidated by that. We certainly have a suite of vehicles coming … that we’re incredibly proud of,” Jacobson said. “As far as the competitive things go, I would just say: Bring it on.”

Nick Bunkley contributed to this report.

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