Ford CEO Jim Farley Explains Why F-150 and Mustang Are the First to Go Electric

Jim Farley shared what he learned from the auto industry's transition to electric vehicles.

Jim Farley
Ford CEO Jim Farley poses next to the newly unveiled electric F-150 Lightning outside of their headquarters in Dearborn, Michigan on May 19, 2021. JEFF KOWALSKY/AFP via Getty Images

Ford is embracing electric vehicles in full force, aiming to produce two million EVs a year by 2026. But its shift to electrification wasn’t a clearly mapped journey from the beginning. The Detroit auto giant initially wanted to make its first all-electric offering a compact, mass-market vehicle similar to the Toyota Prius but soon realized that was not what EV customers would want, CEO Jim Farley, a former Toyota executive, shared at an event today (Sept. 6).

“I found that people who buy electric vehicles just want really good shit!” Farley said at a leadership conference hosted by GE in New York City today. “They don’t want science projects. They want a really great product.”

Farley virtually joined a dialogue with Uber (UBER) CEO Dara Khosrowshahi, who at one point asked him lessons he’d learned from Ford’s and the auto industry’s transition to electric vehicles.

“We were going to do a Prius,” Farley said. “But when I came back from Europe and saw our first electric car [prototype], I was like, no! We gotta lean into what we are really good at, the Mustangs and pickup trucks.”

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Ford unveiled its first all-electric vehicle, the Mustang Mach-E, a midsize electric SUV, in late 2019. At the time, Farley was Ford’s president of new business, technology and strategy. Before that, he led Ford’s overseas operations, including Ford Europe, from 2015 to 2019. Farley was appointed CEO in October 2020.

Since Mustang Mach-E, Ford has introduced two more electric vehicles: the F-150 Lightning and the E-Transit van. The gasoline-powered F-150 is the longtime top-selling passenger vehicle of any category in the U.S., and Ford is betting

The Mustang Mach-E was the second best-selling electric vehicle in the U.S. in August, behind Tesla (TSLA)’s Model Y. The two EVs are direct competitors, offering similar specs and price points. The E-Transit also had a record month in August with unit sales up 120 percent year over year. However, F-150 Lightning sales slipped in August in part due to production pauses and factory upgrades.

Speaking to other lessons learned from Ford’s shift to electrification, Farley said EV production required a different team setup and innovative minds.

“We learned that small teams are becoming more important,” Farley said. “I saw the company [leadership]—before I was CEO—take the small teams that came up with products that have been doing really well in the market and literally take them apart because they were threatened by them.”

“So I restructured the company [after becoming CEO],” he added. “I don’t have the time for the internal combustion engine people to learn about electric vehicles. So I set up almost a completely new organization.”

Ford CEO Jim Farley Explains Why F-150 and Mustang Are the First to Go Electric