The Future of Ford – and the US Auto Industry

Ford seems to be doing something right. [For one, they don’t have Rick Wagoner and his legacy to deal with]. Ford has recognized the future of the electric vehicle [EV] concept and seem to be pushing this new product.  The Ford Focus EV, tentatively priced under $35,000 has an estimated range of approximately 100 miles and takes about eight hours to charge; the lithium battery weighs about 500 pounds [but is expected to shrink in size and weight to about 125 pounds]. The Indians and the Chinese have already figured out that they can’t compete against the West in the gasoline-powered auto market, so they’ve leveled the playing field by investing heavily in building high-quality and inexpensive electric vehicles.  Their governments are fully subsidizing this industry, and Japan already has a solid head start with its programs. If the US wants to be competitive in the automotive market, Detroit would do well to dedicate their resources to building the best and most affordable electric car in the world — the automobile of the future.  Ford has a good start, Chrysler can’t seem to make up its mind, although Fiat may have the wherewithal to make it happen.  GM’s entry, the Volt, advertises a range of only 40 miles, with a price tag of $41,000 – about 10% more than it’s foreign competitors [but, it is GM after all, and it’s American-made, so you should be absolutely patriotic and buy this uncompetitive slug]. It would be nice to see the Washington Post support this electric vehicle concept; but, since the Post Board of Directors brought in their old pal Rick Wagoner [GM’S fired CEO], their editorials have repeatedly slammed the electric car industry as being a waste of time and investment money.  I’d guess that might be Wagoner’s ghost-writing. You may recall that it was Wagoner who killed the extremely popular EV-1 prototype after it was introduced in the 1990s. Not satisfied with simply cutting EV production, he rounded up every EV that GM had produced and crushed each one, denying even the Smithsonian Museum one for posterity.    As a footnote, GM’s 1990 era EV-1 had a broader range and faster charging time than the Volt, so you can only assume that GM is trying to sabotage its own product. The bottom line here is that the profit margin on an EV is fairly narrow; less even than for the compact [fuel efficient] auto line.   Apparently, GM’s view is that they are willing to give up the EV market in exchange for dominating the truck and SUV market – even if they have to go bankrupt again – at taxpayer expense.  [I’m thinking “GM Bail-out Number Two” won’t be too popular.  If they blow it this time, let them sink into oblivion.]