Ford skunkworks leads project to develop low cost EVs by an ex-Tesla executive

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TechCrunch reports that Alan Clarke, a former Tesla and Ford Advanced Electric Vehicle development boss, is now leading a Ford skunkworks to develop a low cost electric vehicle.

Ford CEO Jim Farley made a brief reference Tuesday during the company’s fourth-quarter earnings call that a “skunkworks”The team was created to create a “low-cost”EV platform. TechCrunch confirmed that Clarke leads the skunkworks, which is based in Irvine and is two years old. It includes engineers from Auto Motive Power (AMP), the EV power startup that the carmaker has partnered with. Purchased in November 2023. Anil Paryani is the founder of AMP, and he also happens to have worked with Clarke at Tesla for five years.

The skunkworks team is working to develop a third generation EV. Ford declined to provide any further details about the project, including its timeline. However, based on Farley’s comments Tuesday — and A year ago — it’s likely that the skunkworks project is focused on cost, smaller EVs and efficiency, including the battery.

“We’re also adjusting our capital, switching and more focused onto smaller EV products,” Farley said during the company’s earnings call. “Now this is important because we made a bet in silence two years ago and we 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 separate from the Ford mothership. It was a startup and they’ve developed a flexible platform that will not only deploy to several types of vehicles, there will be a large install base for software and services that we’re now seeing at Pro (the company’s commercial unit).”

Ford has scaled back some its EV investment plans in recent months — including the delay of Investments of $12 billion — as it adjusts to softening demand for certain categories of battery-electric vehicles and an increased appetite for hybrids. But the automaker still invests in future products. Farley revealed in May last year details of its second-generation EV platforms, which will form the basis for the T3 electric truckThe production of three-row SUVs will begin in 2025.

“All of our EVs teams are ruthlessly focused on cost and efficiency in our EV products, because the ultimate competition is going to be the affordable Tesla and the Chinese OEMs,”Farley said.

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

The company’s profits have come from sales of gas-powered and hybrid vehicles as well as growth at Ford Pro. Ford’s EV business continues to drag down its earnings.

Ford reported Tuesday a revenue of $46 Billion for the fourth quarter 2023. This is a 4.5% rise from the same period last year. Ford Blue accounted for the largest portion of revenue, at $26.2 billion, while Ford Pro generated $15.4 billion. 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 a share, in the fourth quarter, compared to earnings of $1.3 billion, or 32 cents a share, in the year-ago period. The loss was due primarily to special charges associated with its employee pension programs, and a restructuring of its overseas operation.

The company’s adjusted earnings for the fourth quarter were $1.05 billion and $10.4 billion.

The company said it expects to make between $10 billion and $12 billion in adjusted pre-tax earnings — a rosier-than-expected outlook that helped push shares 6.3% higher in after-hours trading.

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