Former Ford CEO suggests electric-car “reckoning” as US adoption lags

Many major automakers, including Ford Motor Company, have changed their tune on electric cars, and stepped up targets for EVs and electrified vehicles over the past several years.

But not everyone is so rosy about rapid growth of the electric vehicle market—including, apparently, former Ford CEO Mark Fields.

Appearing at the EcoMotion mobility conference in Tel Aviv, Israel, as reported by Automotive News, Fields said that the industry is going to be “under a reckoning over the next 2 to 3 years.”

2020 Ford electric SUV teaser

2020 Ford electric SUV teaser

“My view is that yes, electrification is going to grow over the years, but it’s not going to grow to the extent all the experts are telling you,” said Fields, who pointed to China’s industrial policy and noted that the adoption rate of electrified vehicles in the U.S. is going to lag that in other countries.

It’s possible Fields has an axe to grind. In the couple of years since the former CEO was shown the door, it has emerged that some in the company saw him as toeing too conservative of a line with respect to electrification—even though he announced a $4.5 billion push toward those technologies during his tenure.

Under the leadership of CEO Jim Hackett, Ford has since gone bigger on plans for electric and hybrid vehicles, while pulling back on some of its autonomous-vehicle push that Fields had started. It’s in the midst of an $11 billion investment plan toward 40 electrified vehicles (and including several fully electric models) by 2022. Ford’s Lincoln luxury brand will have at least one of those fully electric models, and it will get electrified versions of all its models by 2022.

2020 Lincoln Aviator plug-in hybrid

2020 Lincoln Aviator plug-in hybrid

Fields’ successor also led Ford’s slow exit from traditional sedans, toward future vehicles that would be more activity-based and configured around varying levels of electrification. “We’re all in on this and we’re taking our mainstream vehicles, our most iconic vehicles, and we’re electrifying them,” chairman Bill Ford said in January 2018. “If we want to be successful with electrification, we have to do it with vehicles that are already popular.”

The company has announced that it will be partnering with Volkswagen for vans and trucks outside of North America, and has an ongoing memorandum of understanding extending the conversation to other vehicle types and business areas. So it’s still within the realm of possibility that Ford could decide to step its targets and timelines up once again—regardless of what former executives might think.

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