[Insights] Even Ford Halts EV Investment, How Will the Automakers Adjust Its EV Strategy?

2023-11-06 Emerging Technologies editor

Ford announced the withdrawal of its full-year financial forecast due to the impact of the recent labor strike and ongoing challenges in the EV sector. Most consumers are reluctant to pay higher prices for electric cars compared to traditional or hybrid vehicles. Ford also postponed its planned $12 billion investment in expanding electric vehicle production capacity but remains committed to its goal of advancing its electric vehicle business.

TrendForce’s Insights:

  1. Slower Market Demand Spurs Automakers to Rethink EV Strategies

The United Auto Workers (UAW) union initiated a six-week strike in Detroit starting on September 15, 2023, motivated by demands for improved compensation and benefits. The strike came to an end when consensus was reached with Ford, Stellantis, and GM (General Motors), resulting in the signing of a new contract.

According to predictions from Deutsche Bank, this new agreement will add an estimated $6.2 to $7.2 billion in costs for each of the three major automakers. This cost increase is nearly equivalent to the expense of building an electric vehicle platform. Compounded by the impact of slowing demand for global new energy vehicles (BEV and PHEV), with growth rates decreasing from 54% in 2022 to 30% in 2023, Ford announced the suspension of its $12 billion electric vehicle investment plan. This plan includes its partnership with SK On for a battery factory and a partly reduction in production capacity for the Mustang Mach-E.

GM also announced the termination of its affordable electric vehicle development project in partnership with Honda. Additionally, Tesla’s third-quarter earnings fell short of expectations, and power battery supplier Panasonic reduced production. These developments underscore the fact that the electric vehicle industry’s “overheated” market, driven by early adopters and purchase incentives, has come to an end. The industry must now focus on practical solutions to address consumer reluctance to purchase electric vehicles.

  1. Automakers Must Adopt More Practical EV Development Strategies to Address Price and Range Concerns

The slowdown in electric vehicle market demand stems from the issues of high vehicle prices and range anxiety, which affect consumer willingness to make a purchase. Addressing these two problems requires increasing battery energy density to achieve comparable driving range to conventional vehicles and constructing an adequate charging infrastructure. However, achieving these goals will take time and effort.

With range anxiety still unresolved and the goal of banning fossil fuel vehicles unchanged, automakers positioned between policy and the market face transition risks. At this juncture, choosing to independently develop electric vehicle platforms might add financial burden and risk, with the associated costs reflected in vehicle prices, potentially eroding competitiveness. A more practical approach would involve considering alternative development strategies, such as exploring platform outsourcing to reduce manufacturing costs.

Automakers or Tier 1 suppliers with proprietary electric vehicle platforms have the option to lease their platform production capacity to companies that are currently unable or unwilling to independently develop their own platforms. This strategy can increase production efficiency for lessees, allowing them to commission the production of all or some of their electric vehicle models from the lessor, ultimately reducing manufacturing costs and accelerating the release of new vehicle models.

By doing so, companies can maintain their market share in the electric vehicle race while waiting for the right opportunity to reevaluate the potential for developing their own electric vehicle platforms. In summary, as the demand for electric vehicles slows down, automakers will face tighter financial constraints, making it crucial for them to explore how to collaboratively leverage existing resources to create electric vehicles that align with market demands.

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(Photo credit: Ford’s Facebook)