Ford Europe CEO Steven Armstrong took to Twitter recently to pour some cold water on Tesla’s production milestone for Q2 2018. Responding to Elon Musk’s tweet congratulating the Tesla team for producing 7,000 vehicles (comprised of 5000 Model 3 and 2,000 Model S & X) in a single week, Armstrong issued a sharp retort, mocking the electric car and energy company by stating that Ford could accomplish the same manufacturing feat in just 4 hours.
7000 cars, circa 4 hours. ❤️Ford Team❤️ https://t.co/FZSclsFoS0
— Steven Armstrong (@StevenArmstrong) July 1, 2018
Armstrong’s trolling of Elon Musk’s announcement comes as the latest development in Ford and Tesla’s ongoing Twitter feud. Just recently, Elon Musk incited another sharp retort from the American legacy automaker after he likened Ford’s energy to a “morgue” in a statement to the Wall Street Journal. Considering that Musk expressed his criticism of Ford’s energy during a time when it was uncertain if Tesla could achieve its 5,000/week target for the Model 3, Ford’s VP of Communications Mark Turby quipped back at the serial tech entrepreneur, citing Ford’s capability to roll off a new F-150 truck every 53 seconds from its production line.
Ford’s latest response to Tesla’s production milestone received a notable reaction from thousands of Twitter users. While some found the tweet to be humorous, others noted that Armstrong’s statement might prove to be Ford’s Steve Ballmer moment. Steve Ballmer is a former CEO of Microsoft who infamously laughed off the potential of the Apple iPhone when it was unveiled back in 2007. Just like Armstrong’s response to Musk’s tweet, Ballmer noted in a now-meme-worthy interview in 2007 that Apple was selling zero devices (the iPhone was not yet available for purchase during the interview) while Microsoft was already selling millions of phones every year. As tech history would ultimately prove, however, it would take Apple a very short time before the iPhone helped the Cupertino-based tech company overtake Microsoft in market capitalization. Considering that the Model 3 has been dubbed the “iPhone of cars,” Armstrong’s most recent diss at Tesla’s capability to produce the compact electric car does invoke a lot of Ballmer’s reaction from his interview 11 years ago.
While the Ford Europe CEO’s comment seems to be designed to incite a strong reaction from the Tesla community (it did), the legacy automaker’s retort does come from a place of authority. Ford, after all, is the company that literally started the utilization of an automobile assembly line, with founder Henry Ford introducing it for the Model T back in December 1913. As history would later prove, the assembly line would be Ford’s magic bullet in the automotive industry, allowing the company to dominate American car sales with sheer production numbers and accessibility to the masses alone. This expertise has carried over to the company’s current operations, as reflected by Turby’s mention of the F-150 line rolling off trucks every 53 seconds.
With Tesla attaining a pace of 7,000 Model 3, Model S, and Model X per week, however, Ford would be wise to not underestimate the upstart electric car maker. Tesla, after all, has proven that it is unafraid to innovate outside the industry norm, as demonstrated by the company setting up GA4 in the Fremont factory’s grounds and air-freighting six airplanes worth of robots from Europe to the United States. On top of this, Ford is also dealing with a number of challenges as well, including its recent decision to stop the production of all its cars except the Mustang and the upcoming Focus Active Crossover, which is set to be released next year. Ford is also lagging in terms of EV adoption, with the company yet to release an electric car comparable to offerings from fellow legacy automakers such as GM and Nissan.