Ford Chairman and CEO Jim Farley speaks in Frankfort, Ky., Sept. 28, 2021.

AP Photo/Timothy D. Easley, File

DETROIT (AP) — Ford Motor Co. CEO says the automaker has no plans to divest its electric or internal combustion vehicle businesses, but is reinventing itself by cutting costs and accelerating large-scale sales scale of electric vehicles and software.

Ford CEO Jim Farley told Wolfe Research’s virtual Global Automotive Technology Conference on Wednesday that the company could achieve profit margins similar to Tesla’s by using electric motors, electronics and other parts. common in all vehicle sizes.

But to do that, Ford needs a radically different human talent than it currently has, Farley said in a surprisingly candid interview with analyst Rod Lache. He also said the company had too many people and too much complexity, and lacked the expertise to move to battery electric vehicles. “That’s the simple answer. There is waste,” he said.

Ford, based in Dearborn, Michigan, has approximately 183,000 employees worldwide.

WATCH: Ford plans big changes for electric vehicles

Ford, Farley said, can’t just switch from internal combustion engines to battery-powered vehicles. The internal combustion engine layout is good for bodywork, paint and manufacturing, and would be the envy of starter EV makers.

But “I can’t turn to the ICE organization and say ‘go be Tesla,'” Farley said. “They can do it on the (auto) body. They can do it in plant operations, but it’s not enough,” he said, without giving details of the upcoming changes.

Ford only has 15% of the market in the United States, so the transition to battery-powered vehicles is a chance to attract new customers. But Farley said he needed to make the buying process simple and completely online, with no inventory in the system and no door-to-door delivery of vehicles.

Ford’s distribution costs are $3,000 to $4,000 higher than Tesla’s, Farley said, and seeks to close that gap by attracting new talent with those skills.

Neither Ford’s internal combustion business nor its electric vehicle business is generating as much profit as it could, Farley said. The company needs more talent to reduce structural costs and improve the quality of its ICE business, and reduce the cost of materials for electric vehicles, he said.

The company can also differentiate itself by performing online software updates so that customers understand the evolution of their vehicle, and it needs to keep service customers, so if they have a fender bender or that a problem develops in four or five years, they can stay in a simple Ford system, Farley said.

He also said the company is working hard to secure raw materials such as lithium and nickel to make batteries for electric vehicles, and expects more announcements in the coming months.

Bloomberg News reported on Friday that Ford is looking for ways to separate its electric vehicle business from its legacy combustion operations to win the kind of investor backing that Tesla enjoys.

But Farley said Wednesday that would not happen.

“We do not intend to divest our electrical business or our ICE business,” he said. “It’s really more about focus and ability, expertise and talent.”

Shares of Ford closed Wednesday down 2% at $16.95. They have lost about a third of their value since peaking in 2022 on January 14.


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