Jim Farley Tries to Reinvent Ford and Catch Up to Elon Musk and Tesla

Auto consultants say the electrical F-150, often called the Lightning, should be successful if Ford is to thrive within the age of electrical automobiles. Introducing this truck now’s equal to “betting the corporate,” stated William C. Ford Jr., the corporate’s govt chairman, who’s a great-grandson of Henry Ford. “If this launch doesn’t go properly, we will tarnish your entire franchise.”

The corporate has amassed about 200,000 reservations for the vehicles, but it surely might nonetheless stumble. Manufacturing could possibly be slowed by the worldwide chip scarcity or the surging prices of lithium, nickel and different uncooked supplies essential to batteries. The software program that Ford has developed for the truck could possibly be flawed, an issue that hampered gross sales of a brand new electrical Volkswagen in 2020.

Ford and Mr. Farley do have some issues going for them. In contrast to many different electrical vehicles, the F-150 Lightning is comparatively reasonably priced — it begins at $40,000. Tesla’s most cost-effective automobile is the compact Mannequin 3 sedan, which begins at greater than $48,000. The Lightning has tons of storage, together with a large entrance trunk, which is interesting to households and companies with massive truck fleets. And it helps that Tesla won’t start making its Cybertruck till subsequent 12 months.

And Ford can be already within the E.V. sport with the Mustang Mach-E, an electrical sport utility car. It had gross sales of greater than 27,000 in 2021, its first 12 months in the marketplace, and gained favorable critiques.

Manufacturing of the F-150 Lightning is scheduled to start out subsequent Monday. Competing fashions from Normal Motors, Stellantis and Toyota — Ford’s principal rivals in pickups — are not less than a 12 months away. Rivian, a more moderen producer that Ford has invested in, has begun promoting an electrical truck however is struggling to extend manufacturing.

“If the Lightning launch goes properly, we have now an unlimited alternative,” Mr. Ford stated.

In some ways, Mr. Farley checks a lot of the bins in the case of main a big U.S. automaker. Like Mary T. Barra, the chief govt of G.M., whose father used to work on a Pontiac meeting line, Mr. Farley has household roots within the trade: His grandfather labored at a Ford manufacturing unit. On visits to his grandfather, he would tour Ford vegetation and different websites vital to the corporate’s historical past. As a 15-year-old, he purchased a Mustang whereas working in California one summer season and drove it dwelling to Michigan with no license. His grandfather nicknamed him “Jimmy Automotive-Automotive.”

However like Mr. Musk, a local of South Africa who was a founding father of PayPal and different firms, Mr. Farley has had a assorted profession and been concerned in creating companies. Born in Argentina when his father was working there as a banker, Mr. Farley, 59, additionally lived in Brazil and Canada when he was rising up. His profession began not within the auto trade however at IBM. He spent a protracted stretch at Toyota. He helped the Japanese automaker overcome its popularity for making boring and economical vehicles by engaged on its fledgling Lexus luxurious model, now a powerhouse.

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