Ford CEO Jim Farley speaks at the launch of the new Ford F-150 Lightning electric pickup truck at the Ford Rouge Electric Vehicle Center on April 26, 2022 in Dearborn, Michigan. The F-150 Lightning is positioned to be the first full-size all-electric pickup truck to go on sale in the mainstream US market.
Bill Pugliano | fake images
DETROIT: Even as Detroit automakers change and adapt to compete with the leader in electric vehicles Teslasome things in Motor City remain the same.
general motors, ford engine Y Stellantis (formerly Fiat Chrysler) are moving into electric vehicles, seeking to catch up with Elon Musk’s car company in sales. However, the long-standing rivalry between the three US automakers is still alive and well. That’s especially true in the hotly contested full-size pickup truck market, which is a major profit driver for them.
Take, for example, the events of the past week: As Ford prepared to celebrate the launch of its F-150 Lightning Tuesday at a plant in Dearborn, Michigan, both GM and Stellantis it was looking to steal the limelight from its arch-rival and its much-anticipated electric pickup truck.
A day before the event, amid a barrage of stories about the F-150 Lightning, GM seemingly out of nowhere confirmed that the Chevrolet Corvette will be offered in hybrid and fully electric models in future years. The announcement, which industry viewers had been waiting for some time, was skimpy on details, but it did put GM in the Lightning news cycle.
Stellantis’ Ram Trucks brand was more transparent about its intentions, when the brand released a teaser video on social media of its upcoming electric pickup, saying, “Time to steal something.”
Ford said it’s no surprise its competitors are trying to troll the lightning f-150that hits the market at least a year before Chevy and Ram electric trucks.
“The F-150 Lightning is one of those rare product launches that transcends the automotive world and becomes a cultural moment, and has been called a turning point for America’s transition to electric cars. Of course, others will try to get into that. wake,” Ford communications director Mark Truby said in a statement to CNBC.
A GM spokesman declined to comment on the timing of its announcement, but said “it’s only natural that the world pay attention when we confirm that Corvette will go electric,” while promoting the company’s other upcoming electric vehicles. A Ram spokesman declined to comment.
Last week’s announcements are just the latest examples in a long tradition of companies trying to one-up each other or engage in conversation. Automakers have hordes of public relations and marketing experts whose jobs include making sure their vehicles are talked about.
“This rivalry started, I think, in 1931. Don’t act like it’s something new,” said Jason Vines, a former auto public relations executive known for his over-the-top auto show debuts. “He’s thirsty for blood and he’s beautiful.”
Vines, who at various times worked for Ford, Chrysler and Nissan, said that when he was part of the launch of the Dodge Challenger for Chrysler, Chevrolet crashed the event with a new Chevrolet Camaro on a flatbed truck.
In 2016, Chevy launched a national ad campaign targeting the durability of the Ford pickup’s aluminum bed, literally poking holes in it with tools and other things. And four years earlier, during a super bowl ad about the predicted Mayan apocalypse, the Chevy drivers survived, while Ford owner “Dave” did not.
Vines said automaker executives live to beat their Motor City competitors.
Such corporate rivalries are not unique to the auto industry, but the passion some car owners have for the brands they drive is certainly unique. It’s also big business in marketing, as well as building lasting brand loyalty among shoppers.
GM seems to have specifically enjoyed taking photos in Ford’s best-selling F-Series trucksincluding the F-150 and its bigger brothers, which Ford has touted as a $42 billion franchise for the automaker.
The all-electric Chevrolet Silverado at the New York Auto Show, April 13, 2022.
Scott Mlyn | CNBC
That fierce rivalry also helps explain why car brands will offer lucrative incentives to entice buyers to switch brands. It also drives innovation, according to Vines.
“The beauty is that that’s great for the American consumer. These people, these men and women, are bloodthirsty to build the best product they can to steal customers from each other,” Vines said. “That’s a beautiful part of our industry. We’re looking for the customer.”
In some cases, rivalries go back decades and last from generation to generation.
Ford CEO Jim Farley, whose grandfather worked for the company, has always been passionate about the companies he has worked for during his career. Notably, in a 2011 book, “Once Upon a Car” by New York Times reporter Bill Vlasic, Farley is quoted as saying that he planned to enjoy hitting “Chevrolet in the head with a bat.”
Farley, who later apologized for the comments and publicly showed respect for his competitors, was the head of the automaker’s marketing department at the time: “We’re going to beat ’em up and it’s going to be fun,” he is quoted as saying in the book. “I hate them and their company and what they stand for. And I hate the way they’re succeeding.”
General Motors CEO Mary Barra attends the Allen and Co. Sun Valley annual news conference in Sun Valley, Idaho, on July 12, 2019.
Brendan McDermid | Reuters
While GM executives have not been as public about their views on Ford, the automaker’s top executives, CEO Mary Barra and Chairman Mark Reuss, had parents who worked for the automaker. And they have worked exclusively at the automaker during their careers.
Michelle Krebs, executive analyst at Cox Automotive, said Detroit automakers need to focus less on each other if they want to succeed in electric vehicles. The mutual hyperfocus and underestimation of newcomers is part of the reason they lost their dominance in the US market, she said. It’s also how Tesla has been able to dominate the electric vehicle market.
“While there is this intense focus, particularly with GM and Ford, you always know that if one has planned a big announcement, the other will try to sabotage it with a different announcement,” he said. “But at the same time, you know, the rest of the world goes on and is competitive.”
Detroit automakers have definitely taken notice of Tesla, which Farley himself trolled last week at the Lightning event, noting that the truck is capable of charging a Tesla. He also alluded to Ford’s truck being thousands of dollars less expensive than “competitive trucks, as long as they go on sale,” a dig at the long-overdue Tesla Cybertruck.
“We plan to challenge Tesla and all participants to become the world’s leading electric vehicle manufacturer,” Farley said, adding that the company is determined to be the best-selling automaker for EV trucks and challenge Musk’s company in sales.
Of course, at GM, Barra has a different point of view: “I’m very comfortable, because when people get into [our vehicles]they’re just amazed,” Barra he told CNBC last year. “So we will implement them and continue to work until we have the number 1 market share in electric vehicles.”