‘Take that, Elon Musk’: Ford’s CEO takes a swipe at EV rival while announcing solar investment

Ford CEO Jim Farley took a swipe at Tesla CEO Elon Musk Wednesday while announcing a major investment in solar energy. The comment was intended to draw a comparison between Tesla’s long-delayed Cybertruck and Ford’s plug-in pickup, the F-150 Lightning.

Farley was speaking at a Ford plant in Michigan to announce a deal with DTE Energy that both companies billed as the “largest renewable energy purchase from a utility in US history.” But after touting the company’s move to more sustainable sources, he made a quick jab at his main rival in the EV space, whom he has praised in the past for helping spur the industry toward electric vehicles.

“We’re really on a mission at Ford to lead an electric and digital revolution for many, not few,” Farley said. “And I have to say the shining light for us at Ford is this beautiful Lightning made right down the road in Dearborn, right here in the state of Michigan, already the leader of all EV pickup trucks in our industry in the United States.”

He added, “Take that, Elon Musk.”

First announced in 2019, the Tesla Cybertruck was originally supposed to go into production in 2021, but Musk has said that it will now kick off in mid-2023. Meanwhile, the F-150 Lightning is currently the bestselling electric truck in the market, outselling the only two other entrants, the Rivian R1T and GMC Hummer EV.

Farley’s comment was likely intended as a light-hearted dig at Musk, who has also used the Ford F-150 as a benchmark by which to measure the Cybertruck’s power and performance. (Tesla posted a video in 2019 of a tug-of-war between the Cybertruck and an F-150, with the electric truck easily overpowering Ford’s pickup.)

Of course, Tesla outsells Ford by a wide margin, owning some 75 percent of the EV market. The Tesla Model 3 and Model Y are the two top-selling EVs in the US, followed by the Ford Mustang Mach-E — but it’s a distant third, with 6,734 Mach-E deliveries during the first quarter of 2022 compared to 46,707 units for the Model 3.

The solar deal is intended to position Ford as a leading force in renewable energy. Under the agreement, DTE Energy will add 650 megawatts of solar energy in Michigan for Ford — the equivalent of powering 14,000 homes. The installation will increase the total amount of solar in the state by nearly 70 percent. And Ford said that by 2025, all of the electricity used by the company to manufacture its vehicles in Michigan will be matched with renewable energy purchases.

“It’s a strategic investment in Michigan to help us get more clean energy on the grid sooner,” Farley said at a press conference. “We don’t have to depend on oil price spikes in economic cycles to keep full employment.”

To date, Amazon has claimed to be the largest global purchaser of renewable energy. Earlier this year, the e-commerce giant announced several new projects aimed at increasing its portfolio by nearly 30 percent, from 12.2 gigawatts to 15.7 GW. By comparison, Ford’s announcement today represents only 0.65 GW. Previously, Google said it was the “biggest corporate purchaser” of renewable energy.

Also, announcing the “purchase of carbon-free electricity” is different from actually using that renewable energy. Critics note that these claims are frequently exaggerated as a way to bolster a company’s green energy bona fides, pointing to research that found that corporate players often aren’t cutting as much pollution as they claim they are.

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