Electrifying an Iconic Brand

Pete Bigelow, Senior Reporter, covering self-driving tech and the future of mobility, Automotive News joined Grayson Brulte on The Road To Autonomy Podcast to discuss Ford and the electrification of an iconic brand.

The conversation begins with Grayson and Pete discussing the incredible performance of Ford under CEO Jim Farley in the public markets. As Ford electrifies their brand, the company has implemented a savvy strategy built around iconic Ford brands: F-150 and Mustang.

As car companies such as Ford begin to electrify their lineup of vehicles, it’s important not to lose sight of the circular economy. Ford clearly understands the positive impact that the circular economy will have on the EV supply chain and the environment as Ford is an investor in Redwood Materials (a battery recycling startup).

Everybody suddenly sees the writing on the wall that the chip shortage of 2020 to 2023 is going to quickly turn into the battery supply shortage of 2024 to 2028.

– Pete Bigelow

While the supply chain will pose long-term challenges for automakers, the model of selling vehicles to consumers is changing. Consumers are demanding a direct-to-consumer model and shying away from dealers due to the overall buying experience.

The dealership networks of today are not well set up to sell electric vehicles. They are an obstacle in a lot of ways. They are not incentivized to sell electric vehicles. It’s a whole different thing where you are selling an ecosystem and you need to answer questions about utility bills and getting a charger installed in your home.

– Pete Bigelow

As certain car dealers look to charge more for a vehicle due to demand, it ends up having a negative long-term effect on the automaker’s brand, not the dealer. It’s important for car companies to take a stand and protect their brands. Ford is doing this by not allowing dealers to mark up the vehicle due to demand.

Startups such as Rivian (which Ford owns 12%) do not have dealer networks. Does this create an inherent competitive advantage? Grayson and Pete discuss the pros and cons of the Rivian brand and the appeal of outdoor (Patagonia, The North Face) brands. Grayson raises the question: Does Rivian’s van business devalue the brand’s overall value?

Competition in the electric van market is heating up with GM’s Brightdrop, Stellantis’ Ram ProMaster, and Ford’s E-Transit vans coming online in the near future. Could these vans become autonomous in the future?

Wrapping up the conversation, Grayson and Pete discuss the airport opportunity for autonomous vehicles and why the future of autonomy might not be shared.

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Recorded on Monday, January 17, 2022.