Ford’s late on Autonomy, cancels EV project with Rivian, points to Coronascapegoat

    The University of Michigan’s Mcity facility allows Ford to safely test our SAE Level 4-capable autonomous vehicles in a simulated urban environment. The car navigates scenarios like traffic in intersections, pedestrians in crosswalks, different traffic signals and bicyclists.

    Back in 2016, we wrote about Ford’s bold plans to have fully autonomous vehicles on the road by 2021. Well those plans have just come unstuck with Ford announcing autonomous plans have been delayed until at least 2022.

    The company reported a $2 billion loss this quarter and with a market cap that has now dipped under $20 billion, that’s a serious hit. Ford have pointed at Coronavirus as the reason for not meeting their autonomy target.

    Adding to the problems at Ford, the company also announced they’re killing what was a very positive EV partnership with Rivian. The two companies were co-developing a new all electric vehicle under the Lincoln brand. Again, representatives pointed to “the current environment” as the reason for the project’s cancellation.

    While not producing or selling cars during the coronavirus shut down is definitely a valid business challenge that explains the past 3 months, it doesn’t explain that why the past 5 years has seen a steady decline in Ford’s value.

    Ford have one of the most promising EV plays with the Mustang Mach-E SUV that’s set to compete against Tesla’s Model Y. The Mach-E was scheduled to go into production as soon as May, but Inside EVs recently reported customers are receiving notification that has also been delayed by a couple of months.

    Overall, it’s a really rough time for automakers with new vehicle purchases virtually non-existent during the lock down. As we see restrictions lifted in specific parts of the world, the location of your factories matters, a lot.

    Equipped with an extended range battery and rear-wheel drive, Mustang Mach-E has a targeted EPA-estimated 300 miles of range.

    Despite the challenges, the race to electrify our transport options and make them autonomous continues and it seems for all the R&D over the past few years, Ford aren’t ready to ship.

    When you first hear about a company like Ford getting into autonomous vehicles you get excited because they have vehicles that span the full spectrum of price points. In theory, if they’re able to nail the technology in either the commercial realm, they’d be able to commoditize it and make it available to the masses.

    In reality, Ford are falling into the same trap many others are, of pulling out of EV projects, instead relying on diminishing revenues from legacy successes.

    The top vehicle sales charts are going to look very different over the next few years and the companies still in business by 2030 will also look very different. Despite the heavy financial challenges, you can’t skip on the R&D necessary to get to the other side of EV and autonomous generation.

    What isn’t helpful are PR stunts like Ford’s recent Mustang Cobra Jet, that’s a one off, doesn’t benefit consumers in any way and distracts engineers from what they should be working on. A 1,400hp 1 off EV drivetrain in a Mustang shell is great for burnouts, but terrible for a struggling bottom line.

    Time to get serious Ford.

    The sad thing is, Ford actually made a pretty decent Ford Focus Electric that started production way back in 2011, but never brought it to Australia.

    Jason Cartwright
    Jason Cartwright
    Creator of techAU, Jason has spent the dozen+ years covering technology in Australia and around the world. Bringing a background in multimedia and passion for technology to the job, Cartwright delivers detailed product reviews, event coverage and industry news on a daily basis. Disclaimer: Tesla Shareholder from 20/01/2021

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