Ford CEO Jim Farley: when a ‘petrolhead’ becomes (also) an EV adept

As a ‘lifelong petrolhead’ (his words), Ford CEO Jim Farley has just recently posted an insightful ode to electric vehicles. In an opinion piece on social media, he shared a fresh and inspiring perspective about his newfound love for electric cars.

As a self-described ‘lifelong petrolhead’ with a career in the automotive business (mainly Toyota and Ford since 2007), he became the number one at Ford in 2020 and has definitely engrained himself in the car world.

‘A car guy’

I met Jim Farley a couple of times on his way to the top, i.e., when he was described and lauded as the father of the first Toyota Yaris (1999) when he was the top man at Lexus (2005), when he presented the new (6th) Mustang generation to the European press in the south of Germany (2015), and when he was leaving his top position at Ford Europe (2017) to become EVP and later ‘master of the game’ in Detroit itself.

His passion for combustion vehicles appeared unharmed every time because he had spent most of his life developing them. But he couldn’t (and didn’t want to) deny the advantages of electric driving. Still, he always said, “The rumble of a V8 feels like the soundtrack of my life.” Being the grandson of a man who started working in 1918 at Henry Ford’s famous River Rouge Plant in 1918 left traces, too.

Newfound love

Being and doing all this, Jim Farley has now admitted to a newfound love of electric vehicles and explains why. Furthermore, he does an excellent job of addressing common misconceptions about EVs and making predictions for the industry’s future.

We highly recommend reading the full version of Ford CEO Jim Farley’s recently posted opinion piece on LinkedIn. It’s a five-minute read that is well thought out and relatable. Farley comes off as informed, honest, and approachable. And as the head of a major automaker, he has all the valuable and relevant data to rely on.

We share some of his thoughts: “As a lifelong petrolhead, I was as surprised as anyone when I fell in love with electric vehicles. Government policies or political beliefs didn’t spark this late-career romance with electric vehicles.”

“It’s because I drive one, my Ford F-150 Lightning Platinum. It is astonishingly quiet and smooth. The effortless acceleration leaves you with a silly grin once you get the feeling back on your face. Every morning, mine is topped up with 300 miles of range. No gas stations, ever…”

“… It’s that simple. For millions of Americans and me, electric vehicles are removing daily hassles and reminding us why we love to drive. And if you want to have a blast behind the wheel, take a Mustang Mach-E Rally out on a dirt road…”

Farley, during his trip through the States in his F-150 Lightning in 2023 /Ford

Software-defined and electric

Next, the Ford CEO addresses some misconceptions about EVs and compares the nascent technology to other paradigm shifts in our industry world, such as mobile phones and computers, and even recalls a time when the internet was just a fad.

Farley: “It takes time for innovations to take hold. But when they do, the shift is profound and lasting. The following significant change for vehicles will be toward software-defined and electric cars.

After that, Farley addresses a vital issue (and main misconception) among consumers considering going electric: how much range they need. Ford’s research shows that approximately 50% of Americans only take trips over 150 miles four days or less yearly. In Europe, it’s even far less.

Farley also stated that 80% of EV owners charge at home and acknowledges that public charging networks in North America are continuing to grow. Ford’s CEO mentions a road trip across the US he took in an F-150 Lightning last year but left out the part about how shocked he was that it was so difficult to find reliable chargers.

Still, Farley appears optimistic about those networks: “Charging access and speed will keep improving, just as cellular networks went from staticky and constantly dropping to clear and reliable.

Supporting the American car industry

With the US recently imposing higher tariffs on Chinese-made EVs and Europe and possibly Canada following suit, Ford’s CEO stressed the importance of supporting American automakers and trusting that the 121-year-old automaker knows what it’s doing.

“Here’s the other thing. We are in a global race to compete in a future where electric propulsion will undoubtedly be a giant force in transportation. America cannot cede innovation leadership to China, Europe, or any other region.”

“Ford has survived and thrived for 121 years because we have never been shy about seizing the moment to innovate and face the future. We are investing billions in plants, tech centers, and our workforce to create tomorrow’s must-have cars, SUVs, and trucks.”

“It’s true that we are losing money on electric vehicles in the first innings of this transition, largely due to the upfront investment costs. But that, too, is changing. After all, what major technological leap forward wasn’t challenging and costly at the early stages?”

And Farley concludes most importantly: “The tipping point we’re working toward will come not from regulators who push us or politicians who try to hold us back. It will come from consumers. Not when an arbitrary market share is reached but when electric vehicles are simply better for more customers. Better to drive, cheaper to own, and easier to integrate into daily life. This is the reality for millions already.”

This is an eloge to the electric car from someone who has the data to base his vision on but also from someone who has recently been slowing down EV investments and shifting to electrification because of costs and a lack of response from its consumers.

Many CEOs of the big ‘traditional’ car manufacturers are still struggling with electrification. Recently, Mercedes CEO Ola Källenius also gave his adapted standpoint. The new song they sing seems to be that electrification is still the way to go but will take longer than initially expected and hoped.


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