DETROIT — Less than five years after former Fiat Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne publicly asked buyers not to purchase the Fiat 500e because the electric car was a money loser, Ford Motor Co.'s product boss says that automaker won't be in a similar situation with its own battery-powered vehicles.
Speaking Tuesday at the Wolfe Research Global Auto Industry Conference here, Hau Thai-Tang said Ford's battery-electric offerings will be "contribution margin positive."
"This is not a strategic action to make people feel good," he said. "It's going to have to deliver its demand on capital."
Ford plans to launch a 300-mile-range battery-electric crossover, inspired by the Mustang, in 2020. It's part of a broader electrification push in which Ford will spend $11 billion on the technology by 2022 and introduce 40 electrified vehicles globally within that time. That includes 16 fully electric vehicles and 24 hybrids or plug-in hybrids.
Ford in late 2017 created a dedicated team, dubbed Team Edison, to study EVs.
"It's not a question of when, it's how fast," Thai-Tang said of the technology's adoption. "Certainly we have to do our work to build the demand and educate the consumers and drive down the cost."
Ford in recent months has announced a plug-in hybrid version of the Lincoln Aviator crossover and a hybrid variant of the Explorer crossover.
The Mustang-inspired crossover will be Ford's first pure EV since the Focus Electric, which had a range of only about 100 miles and was discontinued last year. Production of the upcoming electric crossover originally was slated for Flat Rock, Mich., but Ford last year decided instead to build the vehicle in Mexico.
The automaker has been late to introduce a battery-electric vehicle compared to some of its rivals, including FCA, General Motors and Tesla.
But that tardiness could provide a slight advantage.
GM and Tesla have both hit the 200,000-unit plug-in sales target at which federal EV tax credits begin to phase out. Ford is at around 110,000 units and could presumably offer the $7,500 credit to consumers when the Mustang-inspired crossover debuts.