Cate Lawrence is an Australian tech journo living in Berlin. She focuses on all things mobility: ebikes, autonomous vehicles, VTOL, smart ci Cate Lawrence is an Australian tech journo living in Berlin. She focuses on all things mobility: ebikes, autonomous vehicles, VTOL, smart cities, and the future of alternative energy sources like electric batteries, solar, and hydrogen.
I don’t own a TV (streaming all the way), but I’m always interested in car commercials to see what tricks advertisers are deploying in their efforts to make us want to shell out a large portion of our income on a new car.
So when I saw that Ford released a new advertisement yesterday – with a decent amount of shade thrown at a competitor whose name starts with a T and ends with an a, I was all in. Let me walk you through it and share some thoughts.
You can check out the ad in all its glory:
But let’s take a closer look:
It starts with a nice touch of snark. Footage is shown of a hand scrolling on a smartphone with the commentary, “Right now it could seem like the only people who matter are the loudest….” Who could they be thinking of?
Then, it continues— “Those who want to tear things down and then fly away on their personal spaceships when things get hard,” A video of a rocket taking lift off fills the screen.
Gee, if you can’t guess from the shade, I’m not sure we can be friends.
The ad uses the hashtag #FORDfortheBuilders. The rest of the ad is dedicated to profiling the workers of Ford, profiling a culturally and gender diverse cohort of people working by their first name. The narrator says that Ford assembles more vehicles in the US than other car manufacturers, which means local jobs.
The narrator continues: “… we’ve got 182,000 people, and they’re building.” and goes on further to conclude, “you might not know their names, but these people get up every day to move us all forward.”
So, what impact will the ad actually have? To be honest, I’m not entirely clear about its aims. But I do have some thoughts on how the companies compare:
A difference in leadership
Jim Farley, President, and CEO of Ford, is all in for making Ford succeed. He has no side hustles – unlike Elon Musk, Musk not only signed on to buy Twitter this month but also has his attention divided between Tesla, SpaceX, The Boring Company, Neuralink, and.
But what’s better: singular focus or diversification? The leadership of a legacy company comes with its own gravitas, But the cross-vertical gains, like R&D, of being heavily invested in multiple industries is nothing to sniff at either.
Verdict: I suspect the singular focus trumps the scattergun approach (but could be convinced otherwise):
Listen, I can’t do miracles ok pic.twitter.com/z7dvLMUXy8
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) April 28, 2022
Ok, so Tesla’s marketing is basically Elon shitposting on Twitter, and journalists and analysts writing articles about it every time he does so. Free advertising anyone?
And this is even before he committed to putting down $44M in investor money to buy Twitter.
By comparison, Ford puts out ads like this one.
Verdict: Gee, it’s a no-brainer; who needs a marketing department when you have Twitter?
Working conditions at Ford
We can assume that the ad’s US worker promo is throwing some shade at Tesla, who opened their Gigafactory in Germany earlier this year, and this week, the company announced plans for a second factory in China.
But Ford also has factories outside the US in countries such as Germany, Thailand, and China, so the finger-pointing is a bit redundant.
But I think the bigger issue is attracting workers. We saw this also with Tesla’s AI Day last year.
Employer branding specialist Universum released its 2020 list of most attractive employers for US students. In a list of 100 companies for computer science grads, here’s how car companies fared:
- Tesla — 5
- BMW — 51
- Toyota — 60
- Rolls Royce — 62
- Daimler/ Mercedes Benz — 86
- VW — 93
Ford and GM are noticeably absent. Even worse, grads would rather work at Uber (ranked at 35) and Lyft (ranked at 39.)
Verdict: The auto industry is notorious for complaints about working conditions. Most of the Automaker Worker’s Union members work at Ford. But unions are pretty old school, and all companies are struggling to attract high-tech talent. So I wouldn’t be surprised if Ford needs to do a big old recruitment drive.
Ok, what’s the math?
In terms of sales, Tesla is still the dominant player in the EV market. Let’s look at a few sums – I’ve made it reasonably simple I hope.
In 2021, Tesla produced 930,422 electric cars and delivered 936,176. (Their deliveries are the closest approximation to sales numbers reported by Tesla.)
By comparison, Ford sold 12.284 EVs last year. No, that’s not a typo.
It’s a bit harder to quantify for Q1 2022.
What we do know is that according to industry analysts, Cox Automotive, in Q1, Tesla’s share of the EV segment globally rose to 75%, up from 70% in Q1 2021.
Tesla delivered 310,048 electric vehicles in the first quarter of 2022.
Only a fraction of the 966,000 automobiles Ford sold across its global operations were EVs. In February, Ford Jim Farley said in a release January EV sales totaled 13,169 units.
So, even if we were generous and said 50,000 sales in Q1, that’s way below the 300k+ of Tesla. Oof.
Verdict: Unsurprisingly, Tesla wins for Q1.
However, it’s unclear how big F150 Lightning sales will hit for Q2. I’m not convinced the company has the capacity for that kind of rollout. They stopped taking orders for F150 orders at 200,000 at the end of last year.
But there’s also talk this week of Ford’s plan to build a new EV pickup. I’m just not convinced this market segment is really relevant to Tesla.
So there you have it. Different brands with different approaches and market segments.
One is wildly successful when it comes to world EV domination. To be clear, I think competition is good.
Most OEMs wouldn’t have gotten off their backside until it became legislatively impossible if Tesla wasn’t there to disrupt the market completely.
I’m pretty brand agnostic, unlike some other journos. I want all the green cars to succeed – electric, solar, and yes, even (green) hydrogen. So, competition can only be a good thing. Bring it on.
Get the TNW newsletter
Get the most important tech news in your inbox each week.