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Ford is making an electric Explorer, boosts EV investment by $8 billion

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Part of a new business plan called Ford Plus

Image: Ford

Ford will spend $30 billion on electric vehicles by 2025, and says 40 percent of its global fleet will be all-electric by 2030. The company is working on an all-electric versions of its Explorer and Lincoln Aviator SUVs. And it’s developing two new electric vehicle platforms: one that will power full-size pickup trucks, and one that can easily flex between all- and rear-wheel drive to fit multiple vehicle types.

The company had previously committed $22 billion to EVs and had announced a goal to be all-electric in Europe by 2030.

Ford is also creating a standalone business for its commercial vehicle division called Ford Pro. The company hopes that by offering more dedicated services to these customers, it can build on what is already a dominant position, as it makes up 43 percent of the commercial truck and van market.

This barrage of announcements is part of a new business plan Ford has rolled out called Ford Plus, which the company says is all about creating “close, enduring customer relationships” that last beyond the purchase of a vehicle.

To do that, Ford spent a good chunk of time during an investor event on Wednesday talking about how it plans to make sure its future vehicles are fully networked, something it wants to do quickly. At one point, CEO Jim Farley said Ford plans to have more vehicles capable of being updated by over-the-air software updates than Tesla by mid-2022.

Better-connected cars would let Ford offer things like more convenient mobile service, which could entice more customers to turn to the automaker when their cars need something fixed, for example. Connected services are also a big part of the plan for Ford’s commercial vehicle division. The company says it already has 160,000 customers that pay subscription fees for the advanced version of its fleet telematics offering.

“We are reinventing our customer experience,” Alex Purdy, who runs Ford’s connectivity team, said during the event. “The path to winning [market share] requires daily interaction” with customers, he said.

“I cannot overstate the magnitude of the shift taking place at Ford,” Purdy said.

Ford Plus is yet another attempt to rethink Ford’s overall business, something the century-old automaker has spent a lot of time doing over the last few years. Its previous CEO, Jim Hackett, led a major restructuring at the company in 2017 that led to decisions like Ford shutting down its manufacturing efforts in Brazil and partnering with Volkswagen on autonomous, electric, and commercial vehicles.

The moves Hackett made are starting to pay off. Despite some early hiccups, the Mustang Mach-E is off to a strong start. Ford says 80 percent of customers are opting for the more expensive extended range battery versions, and 70 percent overall are new to the brand. And on Wednesday, Ford shared that it has collected 70,000 deposits for the all-electric F-150 Lightning announced last week.

Ford Plus, then, is meant to build on that momentum. In addition to the aforementioned announcements, Ford also spent time Wednesday talking about how it plans to make its own battery packs in the US with South Korean manufacturer SK Innovation — a deal it announced last week. The company will brand the lithium-ion packs for passenger vehicles as “IonBoost,” in a nod to its efficient EcoBoost engines. Lithium iron phosphate battery packs for commercial vehicles will be called IonBoost Pro. Ford is also developing solid state batteries and believes they will be ready by the end of the decade.

Ford’s announcements come at a time of great change in the automotive industry. General Motors has said it hopes to only make zero-emission light duty vehicles by 2035, and the Ford rival also recently spun out its own commercial vehicle (and vehicle services) business called BrightDrop.

“This is our biggest opportunity for growth and value creation since Henry Ford started to scale the Model T,” Farley said in a statement.