Ex-Tesla exec leading Ford skunkworks project to develop low-cost EV


Former Tesla and Ford Advanced EV development director Alan Clarke is leading a Ford Skunkworks project to develop a low-cost electric vehicle, TechCrunch has learned.

Ford CEO Jim Farley briefly referenced Tuesday during the company's fourth-quarter earnings conference call about creating a “skunkworks” team to create an EV platform “at low cost “. TechCrunch has since confirmed that Clarke is leading the roughly two-year-old Skunkworks project, based in Irvine, California. It includes engineers from Auto Motive Power, or AMP, the electric power startup that the automaker acquired in November 2023. AMP founder Anil Paryani, who coincidentally overlapped with Clarke for about five years at Tesla, is also part of the skunkworks project.

The Skunkworks project is working on a third generation electric vehicle. A Ford spokesperson declined to provide further details about the project or its timeline. However, based on Farley's comments Tuesday — and a year ago — it's likely the Skunkworks project will focus on cost, smaller electric vehicles and efficiency, including battery power.

“We are also adjusting our capital, changing and focusing more on smaller electrical products,” Farley said during the company's earnings call. “Now this is important because we made a silent bet two years ago and developed a super talented skunkworks team to create a low-cost EV platform. It was a small group, a small team – some of the best EV engineers in the world – and it was distinct from the Ford mothership. This was a startup and they developed a flexible platform that will not only be deployed across multiple vehicle types, but there will also be a large install base of software and services that we now see at Pro (the business unit of the company).

Ford has scaled back some of its electric vehicle investment plans in recent months – including deferring $12 billion in investments – as it adjusts to slowing demand for some categories of electric vehicles in recent months. battery and an increased appetite for hybrids. But the automaker continues to invest in future products. Last May, Farley revealed details of its second-generation EV platform, which will form the basis of the T3 electric truck and three-row SUV that will enter production in 2025.

“All of our electric vehicle teams are ruthlessly focused on the cost and efficiency of our electric products because the ultimate competition will be affordable Tesla and Chinese OEMs,” Farley said.

In 2022, Ford restructured its business into three separate units: its Ford Pro business, its traditional Ford Blue internal combustion engine and hybrid business, and Ford Model e, which focuses on connectivity and electric vehicles.

The company's profits come from sales of gasoline and hybrid vehicles as well as the growth of Ford Pro. Ford's EV business continues to weigh on its profits.

Ford on Tuesday reported fourth-quarter 2023 revenue of $46 billion, an increase of 4.5% from the same period last year. Of this, Ford Blue accounted for the largest share of revenue at $26.2 billion, while Ford Pro generated $15.4 billion in revenue. Ford e, the company's EV unit, generated $1.6 billion in revenue and Ford Credit brought in $2.7 billion.

Ford lost $526 million, or 13 cents per share, in the fourth quarter, compared with a profit of $1.3 billion, or 32 cents per share, for the same period a year earlier. The loss was largely due to special charges related to its employee retirement programs and a reorganization of its overseas operations.

On an adjusted basis, the company earned $1.05 billion in the fourth quarter and $10.4 billion for the year.

The company said it expects to make between $10 billion and $12 billion in adjusted pretax profit — a more optimistic-than-expected outlook that helped send shares up 6.3% in after-hours trading .



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