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Ford Reminds Tesla Why It's The Ultimate Disruptor

Industry News

The EV war is just getting started.

Tesla has made huge accomplishments in its short sixteen-year existence. That’s to be commended and respected, but this so-called auto industry disruptor forced the competition to wake up. Today, all of the major automakers are racing to get electric vehicles to market, but it’s no easy task. Tesla knows this very well regarding its many past production output delays. Despite this, many still see Tesla as the ultimate auto industry disruptor, but Ford CEO Jim Hackett strongly disagrees.

In a recent interview with CNN Business, Hackett reminded us that Ford made the biggest industrial disruption of the 20th century with the introduction of the vehicle assembly line allowing for mass production. He has no intention of letting Tesla go down in history for doing the same thing this century. "I happen to compete with a rocket scientist who's really smart, and I respect that about him,” Hackett said of Musk. "And yeah, he's competing with the ultimate disruptor in Henry Ford.” The Ford Model T was revealed in 1908, a time when there were only 200,000 cars in America.

By the time it ended production in 1927 that figure rose to 20 million, of which roughly half were Model Ts. The Model T not only brought an affordable vehicle to the masses, but it also helped create many other industries, such as motels, gas stations, parking lots, and highways. Heck, even traffic jams.

Today, however, Tesla is selling more EVs than any other automaker and, equally important, made EVs cool, perhaps even sexy. These factors alone do not mean Tesla "owns” the EV industry. "[F]itness, as we were saying, is a compendium of things that you have to get right. It's not just the technology,” Hackett said. "In this case, we have to have an industrial model. Ford is really good at this.” He’s absolutely right.

For example, Hackett noted 12 hours were required to build a vehicle before Henry Ford simplified the process with his assembly line, bringing the build time down to only 52 minutes. "Today, we build an F-150 every 53 seconds,” Hackett added.

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Tesla may have finally gotten its production problems in order, but quality issues still remain. Consumer Reports, for example, no longer recommends the Model S due to poor reliability. Hackett is clearly the right person for the CEO job today because he fully comprehends the changes the auto industry is currently undergoing not only with EVs but also self-driving technology and ride sharing. There’s a reason why Ford invested $1 billion in Argo, the autonomous platform company and another $500 million in EV pickup truck builder Rivian. By 2021, Hackett expects to have fully autonomous vehicles ready for testing. Human drivers won’t be necessary.

Tesla may have started a revolution, but it also clearly awoke some sleeping giants.