Ford had a completely flawed EV-forward strategic plan. Ford’s January sales demonstrated that it was never an EV company at all.
In January, Ford only sold 2,258 units of its F-150 Lightning, the automaker’s EV flagship, down slightly from January 2023. Sales of its EV sports crossover, the Mustang Mach-E, dropped 51% to 1,295. Consider for a moment that the gas-powered F-series has been the top-selling vehicle in America for 42 years. The Mustang has been among America’s most recognizable brands in any industry since it was introduced in 1965. Ford’s two most valuable brands utterly failed to launch an EV model. It has been a staggering failure.
The Ford EV story has been well chronicled. Ford Executive Chairman Bill Ford, whose troubled tenure goes back to 1999, said the Lightning launch was the most important event during his time in the company, which carries his family’s name. Bill Ford had gambled The Ford Motor Company’s future on the future of electric vehicles.
In 2021, Ford said the company would invest over $30 billion in EVs between that time and 2025. The plans began to unravel almost immediately. The Lightning price was changed four times in a little over a year. Ford blamed supply and component prices. Dazed customers could not tell from month to month what a new Lightning might cost them,
In mid-2023, Ford pushed its forecast for building EVs at a pace of 600,000 a year from 2023 to 2024. Based on current sales, it is a safe bet that number will be revised again.
In October, Ford warned it was “uncertain” about the EV marketplace in the US. It might be softening.
Last month, Ford said it would shut down one of two production shifts at the Dearborn plant, where Lightning models are assembled. Production no longer matched “customer demand.”
Ford had a final surprise left. Hybrid sales rose 43% in January. After a year in which Toyota, the world’s largest car company by revenue, was mocked by many of its competitors for its focus on hybrids, the world got to see why Ford is Ford and Toyota is Toyota.
One coda to the Ford story is that it decided its plans for the future based on chasing Tesla, the world’s most valuable car company by market cap. Tesla’s sales were 1.81 million last year, up 35%. However, founder Elon Musk told investors recently that the sales would slow to the extent to which not even Tesla is any longer a rapidly growing company. The future Ford chased was never there.