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Ford embraces hybrids as it loses billions on EVs

BusinessFord embraces hybrids as it loses billions on EVs

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Ford Motor Co. displays a new 2021 Ford F-150 pickup truck at the Rouge Complex in Dearborn, Michigan, Sept. 17, 2020.

Rebecca Cook | Reuters

Heads up, hybrid fans: Ford Motor is working on a whole bunch of new hybrid models.

“You’re going to see a lot more hybrid systems from us,” CEO Jim Farley said Thursday after the company reported second-quarter earnings that revealed widening losses on its electric vehicles unit.

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The comments run slightly counter to recent messaging from the Detroit automakers, which have touted the performance and popularity of all-electric favorites as the industry moves to meet EV targets. The hybrid hype, however, falls more closely in line with global hybrid leader Toyota, which has faced criticism for what some saw as resistance to the EV transition.

To be clear, Ford isn’t turning away from its much-touted EV push, though it said Thursday that its EV ramp-up may take longer than it had previously anticipated.

But even as it spends billions to ramp up EV production, it’s planning to bring more hybrid options to market, driven by the success of its current gasoline-electric options.

“We have been surprised, frankly, at the popularity of hybrid systems for F-150,” Farley said during Ford’s second-quarter earnings call. More than 10% of F-150 pickup customers are opting for the hybrid model, Farley said, and that percentage has been increasing.

Ford also offers a hybrid version of its small Maverick pickup. That has been an even greater success, Farley said, with more than half of Maverick buyers — 56% — choosing the $1,500 optional hybrid powertrain over the standard four-cylinder engine.

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But why double down on hybrids just as the industry is making a big push toward pure EVs?

“What the customer really likes is when we take a hybrid system that’s more efficient for certain duty cycles and then we add new capabilities because of the batteries,” Farley said.

Among those new capabilities: Ford’s “Pro Power Onboard” system, which gives customers the ability to tap the truck’s electricity via outlets in the pickup bed to power tools at a job site — or a refrigerator at a tailgate party — eliminating the need to carry a separate generator.

An available 7.2 kilowatt onboard generator that Ford is calling the “Pro Power Onboard” features four 120V 20A outlets and one NEMA L14-30R 240V 30A on the 2021 Ford F-150.

Ford

“We’re seeing a lot of customers like that combination of using the batteries for something beyond just moving the vehicle,” Farley said. “And so we’re just listening to the market.”

Ford has heavily promoted the capabilities of its battery-electric F-150 Lightning pickup, which offers the ability to power an entire house for several days.

It may be that in hearing from customers, Ford has determined the popularity of that capability is outrunning the willingness to go all electric. As executives noted Thursday, EV adoption is moving more slowly than expected.

So, in the meantime, Ford can offer power-hungry but EV-wary drivers an in-between option, with hybrid options across its internal-combustion lineup.

“But don’t think of them in the traditional sense of an Escape hybrid or a [Toyota] Prius,” Farley said. “They’re probably going to come to light differently than most people think.”

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“And customers like that.”

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