Former Tesla and Ford Advanced EV development executive, Alan Clarke, is heading a Ford skunkworks initiative aimed at creating an affordable electric vehicle (EV), according to information obtained by TechCrunch.
Ford CEO Jim Farley mentioned the existence of a “skunkworks” team during the company’s fourth-quarter earnings call, emphasizing the goal of developing a low-cost EV platform. Clarke, leading the project based in Irvine, California, has been working on this skunkworks effort for about two years, with the team also incorporating engineers from Auto Motive Power (AMP), an EV power startup acquired by Ford in November 2023. Anil Paryani, the founder of AMP and a former colleague of Clarke at Tesla, is also involved in the project.
The skunkworks project is dedicated to the development of a third-generation EV. Although specific details and timelines have not been disclosed by Ford, the focus is likely on cost-efficiency, smaller EVs, and advancements in battery technology.
Jim Farley highlighted the company’s strategic shift towards smaller EV products, mentioning the formation of a specialized skunkworks team consisting of top EV engineers. This team, operating independently from the main Ford organization, has successfully created a flexible platform that can be deployed across various vehicle types, with a strong emphasis on software and services.
Ford has adjusted its EV investment plans recently, delaying $12 billion in investments due to changing market demands. Despite this, the company is still actively investing in future products. In May of the previous year, Farley outlined details for the second-generation EV platform, serving as the foundation for the T3 electric truck and a three-row SUV set to enter production in 2025. Farley stressed the importance of cost and efficiency across all EV teams at Ford, acknowledging competition from affordable Tesla models and Chinese OEMs.
In 2022, Ford underwent a corporate restructuring into three distinct units: Ford Pro (commercial business), Ford Blue (internal combustion engine and hybrid business), and Ford Model e (focus on connectivity and electric vehicles). While profits continue to be driven by sales of gas-powered and hybrid vehicles, the EV business has impacted earnings negatively. Ford reported fourth-quarter revenue of $46 billion in 2023, with Ford Blue contributing the largest share at $26.2 billion, followed by Ford Pro at $15.4 billion. The EV unit, Ford e, generated $1.6 billion in revenue.
The company reported a loss in the fourth quarter, primarily due to special charges related to employee pension programs and overseas operations reorganization. Adjusted pre-tax earnings for the year are expected to range between $10 billion and $12 billion. This positive outlook contributed to a 6.3% increase in Ford’s after-hours trading shares.