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Ford to remain patient on EV rollout

Business as usual: Ford Australia will not fast-track EVs to market despite new CEO Kay Hart’s expertise in the area.

New CEO’s EV background will not colour Ford Australia’s electric plans

Ford logo23 Aug 2018

FORD Australia will continue to wait for market readiness before rolling out a range of electrified vehicles (EVs) despite new CEO Kay Hart’s previous experience as Ford Motor Company global battery electric vehicle chief.
 
Speaking to GoAuto at the launch of the updated Everest large SUV, Ms Hart said that while the company has a range of electrified offerings in other markets – such as the Focus and Fusion (Mondeo) – these products would remain off the table locally until there is a sufficient appetite for alternative powertrains.
 
“Ford have made a big play in terms of electric vehicles and the future of electric in our range, but I think with any electric vehicle it’s dependent on the market readiness and the infrastructure that’s around in that market,” she said.
 
“I would say when Australia is ready, in terms of when that market readiness for them to accept EVs, I would hope that we’d have a product in the market. But readiness is the big factor there.”
 
Ms Hart identified charging infrastructure as the number one factor that is limiting the take-up of EVs in Australia, however she would not be drawn on whether government support and subsidies are needed to achieve mass-market EV integration.
 
“There are different levels of government incentives across Europe and in the US, and different levels of take-up,” she said.
 
“A lot of it is to do with the readiness and having the infrastructure in place from a customer standpoint – the cost of batteries is obviously extremely expensive but that will change over time – but the infrastructure is probably the key thing from a customer standpoint.
 
“Where can they charge, when can they charge, how can they charge – that’s really the key thing they’re looking for.”
 
For the first seven months in 2018, only 762 EVs have been sold in Australia, representing just 0.1 per cent of the 691,073 year-to-date new-vehicle market.
 
Ms Hart said Australia is obviously lagging behind global markets in EV adoption, but stopped short of calling for the same fleet emissions obligations as Europe and the US.
 
“If you look at Europe in terms of some of the markets there, they’ve announced a very clear level of EV requirement – so a certain percentage of vehicle sales must be electric in certain markets, similar in terms of certain states in the US,” she said. 
 
“For that reason they’re obviously well ahead in terms of rolling out those models.”
 
Earlier this year, Ford Motor Company announced it will invest $US11 billion ($A14.97b) in EV development by 2022, and aims to have 40 hybrid or fully electric models in its global portfolio by that time.
 
This was a significant increase over the previous investment target of $US4.5b ($A6.12b) by 2020.
 
Ford Australia recently announced it will bring a mild-hybrid version of its new-generation Focus small car to market in 2020, however whether it will offer plug-in hybrid and full-EV models by 2022 remains to be seen.
 
Ms Hart’s previous role at the Blue Oval brand as the global BEV manager (distribution and digital experience) at the Team Edison business unit, which the company said is focused on “rapidly designing and implementing new holistic customer-focused BEV services and ownership experiences”.
 
Starting at Ford in 1998, she has previously held the position of advanced customer experience marketing manager for Asia-Pacific (2015-2017), managing director of Ford of Phillippines (2013-2015), as well as a number of marketing roles in Thailand and China.
 
She replaces fellow New Zealander Graeme Whickman, who held the CEO position for over three years, and has been a part of the Ford team for over 20.
 
Ms Hart is the first woman to be appointed CEO of Ford Australia.

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