This does not bode well for Ford factory workers.
Ford CEO Jim Farley made a rather shocking announcement this week. According to Farley, producing electric vehicles requires less labor than ICE cars. The figure he gave is about 40%.
The reason is relatively simple if you look at the standard EV construction used in Ford models like the Mustang Mach-E and F-150 Lightning. You have a large battery nestled in the floor between the axles and an electric motor on each axle. EV motors are elementary items and, on average, contain less than 20 parts. An ICE engine is more complex and consists of roughly 2,000 moving parts.
Less complexity leads to a smaller working force. One also has to wonder what the effect on the dealer system and servicing will be, but that particular topic has not been breached yet.
Farley spoke with the Financial Times, revealing his plans for keeping jobs at Ford as it marches towards its goal of 50% EV sales by 2030.
The plan, in short, is vertical integration, which is a real thing and not just something a person uses in a presentation to sound smart. Effectively, Farley wants to insource the supply chain. "We have to insource so that everyone has a role in this growth," he said.
Roughly translated, this means Ford will likely go on a buying spree to insource parts and materials, much like Henry Ford did when he first started the Ford Motor Company.
"If Henry Ford came back to life, he would have thought the last 60 years weren't that exciting, but he would love it right now because we're totally reinventing the company," Farley said.
Farley is referencing Ford the First's obsession with absolute control over everything. The company owned quarries, mines, and rubber plantations in its early days. If Henry Ford were alive today, he'd surely own a semiconductor chip and battery plant.
The latter may be Ford's saving grace. At the beginning of 2022, we learned of Ford's massive investment in US production, $250 million of which has already gone to the facility that assembles the F-150 Lightning. Many of Ford's ICE employees could be transferred elsewhere. For example, if you are a buyer at the ICE F-150 facility, you could easily be pulled over to the same job at the Lightning factory.
The 40% figure remains alarming, however. As we saw earlier this year, Ford is not averse to laying off employees to further its EV mission.