Ford Tells Boris ‘Put BEV Money Where Mouth Is’

Ford has made it clear that the UK government will have to help automakers meet Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s brought-forward ICE ban for new vehicles.

Fittingly during the European first public show of it Mustang Mach-E BEV launching the automaker’s Go Electric roadshow, Ford gave strong hints that government financial incentives and contribution to electric charging infrastructure will be vital if the new 2035 deadline is to be reached. Missing the deadline could see automaker’s losing millions of new car sales as consumers hold on to existing ICE vehicles rather than make the switch to EVs.

Speaking to TU-Automotive, Dr Graham Hoare, OBE, executive director of business transformation Ford of Britain, said the recent announcement bringing the end of new ICE vehicles in the UK forward from 2040 came as a shock. He said: “We work collaboratively with governments on issues and opportunities like this. We are completely committed to an electrified future. However, we were surprised that this discussion happened in the way it happened – it was new news for us as well as the rest of the industry.”

Hoare said meeting the target for electrification of the country’s transportation needed a joint approach between automakers and the government particularly if the UK’s Secretary of State for Transport gets his way. He said: “The direction of travel is not new news it’s really about timing. The government announced a consultation about 2035 and I think Grant Shapps even commented about 2032. We have already started our dialogue on this and what is important it that it is not just one party or partner that will solve this problem and ultimately dictate the timing of full electrification.”

Hoare reiterated that government must help in installing the necessary charging infrastructure to alleviate consumer obstacles to adopting EVs, opposition that has seen EVs accounting for just 2.2% of vehicle sales globally and only 1.3% in the UK. He explained: “It will have to be the infrastructure that will have to be in place because more than 30% of people say they will reject the technology because the infrastructure is not there. The government recognizes their role in creating much stronger infrastructure.”

Government cash incentives should be looked at in more detail to help consumers make the switch to electric cars. He said: “Also the consumer is at the heart of all this – if the consumer doesn’t want these products yet, if they are not on-board then, ultimately, we won’t sell them. We have to accept that the cost of an electric product is still significantly more expensive than an equal product using gasoline or diesel. So, we need to work with government to maintain, change and adapt over time and strengthen where necessary the incentives so the consumer can afford these products at their earliest convenience. If that recipe comes together then the timing will be a natural outcome.

“We aspire for it to be 2035 but it needs to be a team sport and we will work with the government between now and the middle of the year to shed as much light on this so that they can make informed decisions for the strategy of the future.”

The new Mach-E is an important first step towards attracting consumers to the zero emissions (at least at tail-pipe level) transport. Hoare said: “This is a real demonstration of Ford’s capability with the blend of performance that, as a brand, we all aspire to. It’s exciting to drive, is a premium SUV and yet is also affordable at £42,500 ($55,300) in the UK. When you see what the package delivers for you, it really is an accessible product.

“We chose this segment carefully because it’s to inspire the consumer. We have often seen under powered or inappropriately specified electric vehicles that have started in the wrong segment and that has suppressed their appeal.

“So this product is aimed to inspire, to delight, to enthrall and create a contagion for electric vehicles. We really want to lean into the electric future and demonstrate that it is affordable and that it is accessible but, most of all, it is a product that you will want.”

Ford of Britain’s chairman, Andy Barratt stressed the importance of educating the consumer into considering the advantages of BEVs and that’s why the automaker has launched the Go Electric roadshow to tour the continent bringing the Mach E to the public to try. He said: “This vehicle has to showcase Ford’s latest technology but unlike first generation EVs you can have style and substance with the advanced powertrain and technology. All this will be backed up by the experiential strategy of this event that will now travel around Europe as well as a smaller, more flexible event, that will do 200 locations around the UK.”

Alluding to the Mach-E’s claimed 370-mile range potential, Barratt added: “These events are all about powertrain education because there exists so much folklore around electrification based around first generation products where you could only do half a journey and what around forever for the car to charge. That’s not the world we are in any longer.

“Now we are coming in with a product that has a very competitive range and a premium feel at a non-premium price for us to put a marker down. The main thing for us as a manufacturer is getting people to sample the product because, when you do that, you will never look back.”

— Paul Myles is a seasoned automotive journalist based in London. Follow him on Twitter @Paulmyles_

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