I didn’t think I would see it in my lifetime. I’ve been mocking them for years.
I thought it would take another nut like Elon Musk to produce a competitive electric, self-driving car that could compete with Tesla, and in my mind a GM, Ford, Toyota, or VolksWagen would never have the guts to get to the finish line before the game was already over.
The stock market thought so too. Tesla was at $750, Ford was languishing at $12.
Then, out of the blue, Ford decided they would actually go for it. They would convince Tom Brady, metaphorically, to leave New England at 43 years old and join yesterday’s team, so they could get to the Super Bowl.
Ford’s head, Jim Farley, somehow convinced Doug Field, who had led Tesla’s longshot effort to build the Model 3, to come to Ford. Field puts Ford near the top of the self-driving electric car sweepstakes.
When Musk booted Field out of Tesla in 2018, because that’s what he does to get the credit when the company is about to reach the end zone, Field moved to Apple to lead their super secret car project that is supposed to reach fruition in 2024.
Getting the software right for a self-driving electric car is mighty difficult. Just ask Elon Musk, who is defending a bundle of lawsuits while trying.
If anybody can make the Ford F-150 a legit contender, it is probably Doug Field. After graduating with a bachelors in engineering from Purdue he worked at Johnson & Johnson, where he met the renowned inventor Dean Kamen, who was attempting to build a wheelchair which could go up and down stairs by itself.
Kamen soon left J&J, and Field followed him to his new venture, Segway, where he was the first employee. The Segway is itself a balancing personal transporter which has morphed into a dozen or so products over the last 20 years.
Field was eventually lured to Silicon Valley, but maintained his interest in wheeled vehicles. Steve Jobs hired him at Apple where he became a prime mover of the Macintosh computer.
Eventually the attraction of building something new and great in America connected him to Elon Musk. Musk evidently saw in Field the creativity and drive to lead the Model 3 project that would take Tesla from a toy of the elite to a practical vehicle that could sell hundreds of thousands if not millions of vehicles a year. Government credits made the car economically feasible, and Musk, the showman, could promote Tesla without paying for advertising. Then Apple came once again for Field, this time to lead their self-driving vehicle venture for three years.
NOW FORD. YES. FORD!
You have to figure Doug Field’s latest move is not about money. To me, it is absolutely shocking.
Ford does have the F-150 Lightning electric truck, which has about 150,000 reservations for the 2021 model, which now may come out in 2022. It’s running neck-and-neck with Tesla’s Cybertruck, which is also late. Ford has to get this right. If it has endless delays and recalls, Tesla will steal the company’s heart, kidneys, and liver.
Maybe Doug Field took this job to get his revenge against Musk for firing him three years earlier. I have to believe that Ford, with the company on the line, offered Field, a Midwestern Purdue guy, the kind of authority that car companies would never relinquish to a Silicon Valley lifer. Will he deliver? Or will the Detroit insiders paralyze him before he can?
We’ll find out in the next few years.
Question: Does Ford have a chance to beat Tesla with their electric truck?