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Interview with Ford Europe boss Jim Farley

Jens Erbeck
Interview with Ford Europe boss Jim Farley
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Let's start with an unfair question. Did you bring us a Ford GT?

G ut for you to ask that (laughs). I just happened to order my copy and the car for Bill Ford is currently being built. Production has only just started. We expect vehicles to be available in Europe as early as the first half of the year and then of course to be available for testing. The GT will be a very special car, for example it has no seat adjustment, as in racing cars the pedals and the steering wheel will be adjustable.

Back to more down-to-earth cars. What are your plans for electric drives and plug-in hybrids?

Of course, we invest heavily in alternative drive systems, but we are perhaps more secretive than some of our competitors. This may come as a surprise to you, but we are number two in this segment in the USA behind Toyota. We sell more plug-ins there than Tesla electric cars. When I came to Ford ten years ago, we decided to outperform Toyota. For example, all Lincoln models are also available as hybrids. We are currently investing $ 4.5 billion in the development of vehicles with alternative drives. We will introduce a total of 13 new electric vehicles for global markets over the next five years, including hybrid versions of the F-150 pickup and the Mustang GT. In Europe, for example, the Ford Transit Custom will enrich our model range as a plug-in hybrid. Basically, the following applies: The electric vehicle market will become very tight in the next few years, and one would be well advised to be on the market in areas in which the brand can best present oneself as a brand, such as sports cars or commercial vehicles.

Commercial vehicles are often overlooked in future drive systems. What does Ford’s strategy look like?

The cities of the future will need electric commercial vehicles. For example, if your kitchen needs to be replaced, it won't take public transport to get to you in town. So when cities may only be accessible to electric vehicles in the future, you will need electric commercial vehicles. You won't be able to deliver everything by drone. The electrification of light commercial vehiclesincidentally, whom we are number one in Europe, is extremely important to us. Ford is the first series manufacturer to offer hybrid technology in this segment.

Would you give diesel another chance here?

Clean diesel drives will be easier with light ones Commercial vehicles remain useful. The key question for us, however, is how much the customer is willing to pay for exhaust gas cleaning. In our experience, almost nothing, in any case very little with smaller vehicles. So we have to cut our costs.

Let's talk about cylinder deactivation. How many cylinders or how few do you think it makes sense with such systems?

With four or eight cylinders, that's no problem, you can take half out and still have a regularly running engine. With a three-cylinder like our multiple award-winning one-liter Ecoboost engine, cylinder deactivation is much more difficult. But we now have a solution here too, which we expect to bring onto the market in 2018.

When will Ford manufacture the last diesel engine? Is that tomorrow, ten or twenty years from now?

As you know, we also have many commercial vehicles in our range. So it's hard to predict. There will of course continue to be diesel commercial vehicles that are used outside of cities. In urban regions, diesels will likely soon be replaced by plug-ins and other drives. This is an extremely important question for us too, because we have very high diesel production in Europe in particular, with a correspondingly large number of jobs that depend on it. It is not only an economic but also a social question, because the production of a battery is many times less labor-intensive than that of an internal combustion engine.

So how does it work? go on for diesel?

2016 was a very important year, for the first time in Europe we experienced a strong, non-linear and also unpredictable decline in diesel demand. Now the curve has taken a different, steeply sloping course. To say that we won't have any more diesels in ten years' time, I still think that's too extreme.

You talked about investing in alternative drives. How much is the share of investments in favor of new technologies shifting?

We are still investing a great deal of resources in improving internal combustion engines - key words: the aforementioned cylinder deactivation and gearbox optimization are still big issues for us. That is also a question that affects all other manufacturers as well. We can't talk about more precise figures here, but we ask ourselves the question every day whether there isn't a lot moreshould be more.

Are you thinking about sharing these thoughts and findings with other manufacturers and entering into cooperation with them?

Of course we think think about it, but it's very difficult to do. If it's only about drives, that's still pretty easy, we're already doing that. There is a lot going on, but not everything is ready to be said, also because it also affects our partners. There are also some collaborations that are already known, such as the one in fuel cell technology with Mer-cedes and Nissan.

We in the editorial team are always impressed by it how Tesla has managed to achieve a very strong enthusiasm among drivers and owners, a great deal of identification with the product. Is that a role model for you on how to make e-mobility sexy?

That is an important question, because I have the impression that we are perhaps missing the most interesting discussion in the auto industry. When I was a boy, my grandfather still worked at the foundry in River Rouge, Ford's big factory. When we drove around Detroit, he always said I should never forget that the company's name was Ford Motor Company. What he meant by that: The brand identifies itself through the engine, the drive. Ford was known to be the first company to install a V8, which set us apart from all other manufacturers.

What does that mean for you?

The question for the future will be whether we will define the brand in terms of the drive system for electric vehicles as well. And will the brand still have the same meaning as it does today? What role will it be able to play in electrically powered cars? That is the central question for me for the future.

What expectations do you have of the US company with a global presence Presidency of Donald Trump?

We are a 110 year old company with around 300,000 employees. It goes without saying that we have thought very hard about this topic, that is our duty. On the other hand, we've seen many presidents come and go. Overall, however, I'm not as pessimistic as many of my compatriots.

Does the Ford Motor Company have a direct line to Trump and his team?

We are a very old, a very large company, so we have always had a special relationship with many politicians.

Finally, let's talk about the products again. Where does Ford have some catching up to do in Europe, where do you see yourself not so well positioned?

We are not as present in the crossover area, especially below the C segment. I think customers have gotten used to cars with a relatively high hip point and the benefits thatthe sitting position offers them. Personally, I still believe in the attractiveness of sporty cars, which can also be crossovers. We will face this design challenge as a team. These are all important questions about which we cannot allow ourselves to make wrong decisions, because these mistakes affect the lives of very many people.


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