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Ford Skunkworks Team Becomes Standard For ‘Industrial Fitness’

In what was a bit of a surprise earlier this year, Ford CEO Jim Farley revealed that the automaker created its own skunkworks team two years ago, which was then tasked with creating a low-cost EV platform set to underpin a few future models, including a $25k crossover slated to launch in late 2026. That team is led by former Tesla engineering director Alan Clarke, and has been operating in total secrecy and more like a startup in Irvine, California for some time now, unbeknownst to anyone outside of The Blue Oval. However, it seems like this Ford skunkworks team will only set a precedent for the way the automaker operates moving forward, too.

Front view of the 2023 Ford Escape

“And so it turns out we were maybe smarter than we actually intended to be with our skunkworks because the way they’re working is completely foreign to the standard operating procedures of Ford,” Farley said while speaking at the recent Bernstein Strategic Decisions Conference. “That was actually not something to celebrate. It was actually required for fitness, for cost, to use a completely different supply chain, to totally change the design standards for our EV components, to go vertically integrate and make the sourcing decisions to a lower part of the supply chain.”

“All those things were actually required now to be fit. It’s not something that, maybe a year ago, we were like, ‘Hey, this is going to be really different.’ Now I know all those things are required for excellence strategically – basically taking our skunkworks team and turning them into the standard for industrial fitness.”

Farley noted that Ford has learned a lot via its skunkworks team, including the fact that it needs to focus on acquiring the best talent for the software side of the business, specifically, pointing to the advantage that Chinese automakers have in that space. “What Huawei and Xiaomi have done inside the vehicle is far beyond what we can see with CarPlay and Google Automotive Services. That is the natural law now, in terms of great software,” he said.

This is notable for a number of reasons, particularly since Ford’s upcoming $25k EV is designed specifically to compete with cheap Chinese EVs on a global scale. Clearly, that project has thus far been a success – even though this forthcoming model hasn’t yet been revealed – as it’s already having an impact on Ford’s way of doing business in general, as Farley noted here.

We’ll have more on Ford’s strategy soon, so be sure and subscribe to Ford Authority for 24/7 Ford news coverage.

Brett's lost track of all the Fords he's owned over the years and how much he's spent modifying them, but his current money pits include an S550 Mustang and 13th gen F-150.

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Comment

  1. Mark B

    There’s positives and negatives to just about everything, including business models. Periodic reviews are always a good idea, especially as shifts in material usage types and design and assembly configuration changes.

    Reply

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