Tesla’s battery strategy has “no advantage,” Ford CEO says

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Tesla’s battery strategy will not be adopted by legacy automotive company Ford, because Jim Hackett, the company’s CEO, says there is “no advantage” in migrating capital into owning a cell manufacturing facility.

During Ford’s Q2 2020 Earnings Call in late July, Morgan Stanley’s Adam Jonas asked about the company’s strategy to produce EV batteries in-house, as opposed to sourcing the cells from third-party companies like Panasonic and LG Chem.

Hackett, who elected to retire from his post as head of Ford earlier this year, stated that his team did a “deep dive” on whether it was advantageous to create its own battery cells.

It proved not to be advantageous for Ford.

“I’ve met with a number of the people that you know that are in the supply side of this. And it was our estimation, in fact, our whole team went through a really deep dive on this six months ago, that the supply chain has ramped up since Elon built his Gigafactory,” Hackett said. “And so there’s plenty there that does not warrant us to migrate our capital into owning our own factory. There’s no advantage in the ownership in terms of cost or sourcing as what Ford can draw on.”

Instead, the company will continue to go the path that it is now, which requires sourcing batteries from third-party suppliers instead of researching and improving on cells within the company’s facilities across the world.

Interestingly enough, Tesla has found tremendous advantages in producing its own batteries at its Giga Nevada facility, which is responsible for assembling battery packs with the help of Panasonic.

Forbes stated that a Trefis analysis from January 2020 showed that battery costs fell by 45% from 2016 to 2019, which effectively decreased the price of Tesla’s vehicles by $7,000 on average.

Despite this, Ford isn’t budging, and the company’s executives don’t believe they require a battery plant at the current time.

Hau Thai-Tang, Ford’s Head of Product Development and Purchasing, stated that the company would need to manufacture between 100,000 and 150,000 electric vehicles a year to justify a battery production facility, Automotive News reported.

“We don’t have that volume initially to justify that capital expenditure,” Thai-Tang said. “There’s insufficient scale for any one OEM, other than somebody who’s a full-line battery-electric manufacturer like Tesla, to justify that spending.”

Thai-Tang’s statement indicates that there is a possibility that Ford could change its mind about battery production in the future. Still, the company will have to increase the production of its electrified lineup. For now, he is okay with buying batteries from suppliers.

“It gives us the ability to access the latest technology and innovation across multiple suppliers,” he said.

Tesla, however, is thriving by developing its battery technology. Many Wall Street analysts contribute the company’s cell strategy as a primary reason for its success, which has been exponential so far this year for investors.

Ford is still fine-tuning its EV project and is planning to release a fleet of forty electric cars by 2023 by spending $11 billion by 2022 to develop the technology required to be competitive in the quickly-growing sector.

Tesla’s battery strategy has “no advantage,” Ford CEO says
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