27 May, 2021

Ford focuses on electrification and customers

Ford expects 40% of its global vehicle volume to be all-electric by 2030. To get there, it will raise electrification spending to over $30 billion (€24.6 billion) by 2025. Developing batteries and advancing architectures will be fundamental to pushing the electric envelope. This means expanding research institutions and forming new technology ventures.

The company has also unveiled a new take on customer relations. Ford is looking to break away from the ‘transactional build-and-sell business model,’ which it believes has typified the automotive industry for decades. Ford+ will look to focus on a closer, more enduring customer relationship, delivering ‘always-on benefits for customers.’

Electrification revolution

The US carmaker’s plans mean accelerating investments and increasing planned total spending, including funding for battery development. The company wants to be able to design, engineer and manufacture its own batteries.

For example, Ford Ion Park, a ‘global centre of battery excellence’ currently plays host to 150 experts in battery chemistry, manufacturing, testing and value-chain management. The OEM explains that these front-runners will help boost battery range and lower costs, two of the largest hurdles to mass battery-electric vehicle (BEV) adoption.

Ford is looking to vertically integrate its electric-powertrain technology with a large range of batteries. IonBoost lithium-ion units will play an essential role in this structure, with iron phosphate versions for commercial vehicles. Long-range, low-cost solid-state batteries will be built with the developer Solid Power.

The carmaker also recently formed a joint venture with SK Innovation (SKI), called BlueOvalSK, to manufacture battery cells in the US. This new partnership hopes to produce roughly 60-gigawatt hours (GWh) each year, with room to expand beginning mid-decade. By 2030, Ford expects annual energy demand for its vehicles to reach 140 GWh annually in North America and up to 240 GWh globally – roughly 10 plants’ worth of capacity.

‘Through the JV, Ford and SKI will jointly develop and industrialise battery cells at scale that are tailored to deliver optimum performance and value for our Ford and Lincoln customers,’ said Lisa Drake, Ford’s North America chief operating officer. ‘SKI is an important partner in helping deliver batteries with better range and value for our fully-electric vehicles by mid-decade.’

New customer contingency

While developing increasingly advanced BEVs and batteries, Ford must also ensure it has the capacity to get customers on board with the electrification of its line-up. A new generation of vehicles requires a new approach to customer relationships; enter Ford+.

Wanting to establish longer, more involved ties to the consumers who buy their cars, the company is employing new technologies. Blue Oval Intelligence, a cloud-based platform, will integrate electric, power-distribution, computing and software systems in Ford and Lincoln vehicles.

‘I am excited about what Ford+ means for our customers, who will get new and better experiences by pairing our iconic, world-class vehicles with connected technology that constantly gets better over time, said Ford CEO Jim Farley. ‘We will deliver lower costs, stronger loyalty and greater returns across all our customers. This is our biggest opportunity for growth and value creation since Henry Ford started to scale the Model T, and we’re grabbing it with both hands.’

This connected-customer approach mirrors Ford’s new models, which are themselves more connected than ever. The carmaker expects to have roughly one million vehicles capable of receiving over-the-air (OTA) updates on the road by the end of 2021. Ford was keen to point out it projects it would then exceed rival Tesla’s volume by July 2022. By 2028, it hopes to grow this number to 33 million OTA-enabled Ford and Lincolns.

By continually improving vehicles via OTA, the company will be able to establish another link to their consumers. Ford Pass and Lincoln Way also enable online ordering, financing and renewal options, as well as vehicle pick-up and delivery, and mobile repairs. Other connected technologies, Ford’s BlueCruise driver-assist, and EV charging will be deployed to improve the user experience, not to mention capitalising on a market that is projected to be worth $20 billion by the end of the decade.

Ford Pro, a global-vehicle services and distribution service will also be established to forge a link with commercial and governing customers. It will look to provide a range of electric and internal-combustion commercial vehicles as well as digital and physical services for optimisation and maintenance. Public, depot and employee home-charging will also be offered alongside bundled financing and services.