There are to be no ifs or buts — Ford is plugging into an electric future for good.
Just weeks after its new CEO, Jim Hackett, painted a broad vision of what that future holds, the details are now filtering down into the individual markets. And by the sound of it, the Middle East will be right in the thick of that electric action. Or hybrid, as the case may be.
“We have some iconic models and a loyal customer base ... our inclination is to lean into these areas of strength,” said Steven Armstrong, Group Vice-President and President of Ford Europe, Middle East and Africa. “We are electrifying our most highest-volume vehicles to offer customers around the world even more capability, productivity and performance — not just better fuel economy.
“This is evident in our announcement that the F-150 Hybrid is among the four hybrid vehicles we’re planning to bring to the Middle East in the next four years.” (Through the years, the F-150 truck has had a revered status in the Gulf, notably in Saudi Arabia and UAE. It has brought on board legions of buyers ... and even more of those who wish they could buy one.)
Armstrong’s comment that Ford intends to bring out electric versions of its more popular models is telling. It could be argued that traditional carmakers should be creating standalone electric models from scratch and not tied to the legacy of any of their existing nameplates.
But Armstrong — and Ford — is not having any of that.
“We are seeing a change of consumer priorities — new behaviours shaped by the digital world and sharing economy, and an increasing demand for ride-sharing and different ways to own or use a car,” he said. “We are (also) witnessing changes in patterns of consumer behaviour that are driving the transportation revolution we see today; crowded cities and growing populations contribute to air pollution, congestion and strains on transportation systems.
“But with change comes opportunity — and in response, we are also evolving and changing culturally and operationally to meet these new demands. We are ready to compete and succeed in this new world.”
But how quickly does he think the Middle East’s car owners — with their preference for gas guzzlers — are likely to sign up? Isn’t there likely to be a significant gap between Ford’s expectations and actuals?
“Not at all — in fact, we have a very strong line-up of vehicles in the region, from passenger vehicles to trucks and SUVs to commercial vehicles,” said Armstrong. “At Dubai Motor Show, we’re showcasing five new vehicles that will arrive in Ford showrooms across the Middle East early next year.
“(There’s) the new-generation Expedition, the 2018 Mustang, the new F-150, the all-new EcoSport and the all-new Escape ST line. On the Lincoln side, we are bringing the all-new Lincoln Navigator to the region. It’s a hugely exciting time for the business.”
The Ford vision has the big bucks to make it happen
It was in October that newly-installed CEO, Jim Hackett, outlined his broad direction for Ford Motor Co. And along with those plans, there was the promise of significant fundings to make things happen.
“Key to this approach is that we are allocating capital to where Ford can win in the future,” said Steven Armstrong, who oversees the Europe, Middle East and Africa operations. It “starts with the company reallocating $7 billion (Dh25.71 billion) of capital from cars to SUVs and trucks, including the introduction of Ranger and EcoSport in North America. In the US, we added $900 million of investment to upgrade the Kentucky Truck Plant to build the new-generation Expedition and the all-new Lincoln Navigator, which we launch in the Middle East at the Dubai International Motor Show.
“And in MEA, we announced this month we are investing an additional $220 million to expand our manufacturing facilities in South Africa where we produce Ranger.”
That’s as far as its traditional operations are concerned. “For electric vehicles, we are investing $4.5 billion over five years on 13 new electrified models through 2020. We’ve taken additional actions to fund that growth by reducing the internal combustion engine powertrain architectures and related capital spending.
“We’re also expanding our electric vehicle plans for the next decade and targeting additional efficiencies — in both capital spending and product engineering.
“Ford will prepare for industry disruption by becoming fitter as a business.”