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Ford Hedges Its ICE-Powered and EV Bets on the Old Continent, Is That Genius?

Ford hedges bets in Europe 12 photos
Photo: Ford
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Just like many other legacy automakers, Ford vowed, on various occasions, to catch Tesla and conquer the lead in the novel field of electric vehicles. But during the first quarter of 2023, it lost the second position to GM and its 'old-school' Bolt EV and EUV. So, it may need a slightly different strategy.
At home in the United States, the second largest Detroit automaker is fighting with Tesla, GM, Lucid, Rivian, and others on just two main fields with help from the Ford Mustang Mach-E battery-powered crossover and the full-size F-150 Lighting hero. On a commercial note, there is also a side van hustle, thanks to the arrival of the all-electric E-Transit. But due to some issues in Mexico with Mach-E production – which is currently switching to a new (LFP) battery chemistry that is cheaper and easier to manufacture – plus a production stop due to a pesky F-150 Lighting fire, GM easily took second place in the span of just three months.

On the other hand, they do not seem to be preoccupied with the losses of their zero-emissions division – which is maybe a sign that they are looking at the bigger, long-term picture. For now, though, the most important reveals and market introductions of the year have nothing to do with battery power – those would be the 2024 Ranger and Ranger Raptor pickup truck, plus the upcoming 2024 Ford Mustang S650. As far as the former is concerned, it needed to arrive much faster than it did - just a few days before the recent reveal of the 2024 Toyota Tacoma. After all, the mid-size pickup truck best-seller is not the only major foe considering the recently standalone D41 Nissan Frontier or the all-new Chevy Colorado and GMC Canyon siblings. Anyway, at least the 405-horsepower Ranger Raptor is going to be a tough nut to crack, going forward, by the hybridized Tacoma TRD Pro i-Force Max.

Additionally, the seventh generation Ford Mustang – S650 – is also a potential genius move because it will keep the ICE-powered EcoBoost and Coyote V8 banner up without any Dodge Challenger or Chevy Camaro competitor in sight. Remember, Stellantis ordained the 2023 model years of the Challenger and Camaro to be the last of the ICE-powered kind, complete with seven 'Last Call' special editions. Afterward, the Dodge Charger Daytona SRT concept's production version will embark on the novel Banshee EV journey of discovery with nine levels of zero-emissions power. As for the Camaro, the sixth generation's swan song will be the singular 'Collector's Edition' as production will grind to a screeching halt sometime in January 2024. From there on, no successor is in sight – even if GM was quick to claim that this is not the end of the legendary nameplate.

Ford hedges bets in Europe
Photo: Ford
On the other hand, across the big pond – the Atlantic Ocean – Ford is setting the stepping stones of a different strategy. Promising ten all-electric models for the Old Continent in the next few months (including a Puma EV crossover), it has set its sights on the passenger car and van categories and is throttling up effortlessly. The assault started with a nameplate that is less familiar to Europeans and a lot more (in)famous in the United States, mainly because of the renowned Ford-Firestone controversy: Explorer EV. It is not the mid-size crossover EV that is also present in Europe as a 450-hp plug-in hybrid version of the sixth generation. Instead, Ford took the name, recycled it, and slapped it silly on top of Volkswagen's dedicated MEB platform. Luckily, it is not just a rebadged Volkswagen ID. 4, Skoda Enyaq, or Audi Q4 e-tron that would remind us of the recent Mitsubishi-Renault debacle but rather a self-sufficient compact crossover SUV that is attractively styled and even quite affordable by today's standards.

Moving on, Ford will have two CUVs on sale next year – the Explorer and the pricier Mustang Mach-E. But wait, as there are more, because Ford also wants to sell EV workhorses all around the Old Continent. We are starting with the big ones, which so far only reached the EV-loving market of Norway – where the F-150 Lighting started its global journey. Additionally, just recently, Ford Pro also started a three-year-long hydrogen fuel cell E-Transit trial project to gauge interest regarding the feasibility of this alternate type of EV powertrain for commercial clients. And while we are on the subject of vans, we also need to discuss the recent introduction of the all-electric E-Transit Courier and E-Tourneo Courier.

They are essentially two sides of the same coin, motivated by a 100 kW (136 ps/134 hp) electric motor and fast-charging capabilities of precisely the same level – 100 kW. Both will be produced in the same place, at the Ford Otosan plant in Craiova, Romania and will also have ICE-powered gasoline and diesel twins! Yep, Ford is clearly hedging its bets, even sending the latter versions first on the market, starting later this year. So, you see, they're essentially mixing it with everyone – one hand is plugging the chord inside the electric socket, and the other is putting gasoline or diesel inside the tank! Smart, or is that just cynical?

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About the author: Aurel Niculescu
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Aurel has aimed high all his life (literally, at 16 he was flying gliders all by himself) so in 2006 he switched careers and got hired as a writer at his favorite magazine. Since then, his work has been published both by print and online outlets, most recently right here, on autoevolution.
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