Ford is betting on hybrid trucks and SUVs to pay for its smart future

While Ford has spent much of the year talking about its plans for connected cars and cities, it’s back to talking about the trucks and SUVs it’s going to sell to consumers to pay for all that advanced technology. But Ford is striving to be known for its hybrid vehicles and steal thunder from every other company trying to get in the electric car game.

On Thursday, in Dearborn, Michigan, Ford’s head of global markets Jim Farley revealed the automaker’s product plans going into the next decade, most of which are trucks and SUVs that will feature a traditional hybrid system or be plug-ins of some kind. These vehicles will also be equipped with features such as 4G LTE from the end of next year and automatic emergency braking as Ford introduces features from its Transportation Mobility Cloud it announced in January at CES.

Ford Mustang, F-150, and Explorer
Ford

Ford previously announced plans for hybrid versions of the F-150 pickup truck and the Mustang sports car, but now says it will introduce hybrid variants of the Escape and Explorer SUVs, as well as the upcoming off-road-oriented Bronco and likely another smaller, unnamed SUV. Hybrid variants will take on different forms in different applications, Ford said. The F-150’s is meant to aid in hauling and a mobile generator, while the Mustang’s promises, “V8-like performance with more low-end torque.”

“It’s a bold move to pull back on passenger cars almost completely, but the good news is that the consumer shift to SUVs shows no signs of slowing down,” Jeremy Acevedo, manager of industry analysis for Edmunds, said. “However, this trend is far from a secret, and by the time 2020 rolls around, Ford’s new vehicles will have a lot of stiff competition. Even though SUV sales are robust, the market is starting to contract, and when dealer lots are inundated with SUVs of every size, shape and brand, it’s going to take a lot to stand out.”

But Ford is also betting on a new performance-oriented battery electric SUV in 2020, announced in January as the Mach 1. The company also says there will be six electric vehicles by 2022 and a charging strategy for them.

“Throwing a charger in the trunk of a vehicle and sending customers on their way isn’t enough to help promote the viability of electric vehicles,” said Sherif Marakby, vice president of Autonomous and Electric Vehicles. “In addition to expanding our electric vehicle lineup, we are redesigning the ownership experience to ensure it addresses customer pain points that currently hold back broad adoption today.”

It makes sense Ford is banking on trucks. The F-Series has long been the best-seller in its class, with Ford admitting today, “F-Series revenues alone are higher than revenues of Fortune 500 icons such as Facebook, Coca-Cola and Nike.” That news alone already earned Ford a “buy” rating from Morgan Stanley Thursday afternoon.

The automaker already showed the smaller Ranger pickup in January at the Detroit Auto Show, and the related Bronco SUV is expected to be shown next year — both of which will be built in the US.

Yet weighing hard against the company is that while it sells the second most hybrids in the US, behind the Toyota, it hasn’t built the reputation for electrification that Toyota, General Motors, Tesla, or even Nissan have over the last few years. And who knows what the electric landscape will look like in 2022.

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