DETROIT — In 14 months as CEO of Ford Motor Co., Jim Farley has demonstrated an affinity for baseball metaphors.

The industry, he likes to say, is in the “early innings” of electrification. On Ford’s third-quarter earnings call, he said the company is making “big swings” with its new products and services.

If the move to electrification is like a baseball game, as Farley says, then Ford has some major attacks ahead of it.

The automaker will start production of the E-Transit electric van this month and is preparing to start selling F-150 Lightning pickups next spring. In 2022, Ford will also begin construction at its Blue Oval City campus in Tennessee, which will include the company’s first new assembly plant in the United States in decades.

Farley, 59, spoke with Staff Reporter Michael Martinez and News Editor Nick Bunkley last month from his 12th-floor office at Ford’s headquarters in Dearborn, Michigan. Here are edited excerpts.

Q: What made you confident enough to double your projected EV production to 600,000 vehicles per year? Was it the Lightning reservation numbers?

A: The demand is two to three times higher than expected. And so that capacity had to be doubled – probably tripled if we could, but we can’t. Lightning, when we first met we were talking volumes of 20,000 units per year. And I thought no. So we deployed a little way north of 20,000 capacity, but it’s nowhere near the 160,000 units that we have today. Our reservations are now approaching 200,000 units and we are moving those reservations to actual orders.

What percentage of F-150 Lightning reservations do you expect to convert into actual sales?

I think it will be north of 80 percent, but we don’t know. The problem is that full-size trucks have gotten a lot more expensive since the introduction of Lightning. So the price we started at is looking more and more attractive. So when people go from reservation to order, I think it’s going to be extremely high – north of the Bronco.

Have you got a feel for who might want to buy a Lightning versus the petrol?

It’s incremental so far. About 30 percent are F-150 customers, but 70 percent are new to the brand and new to pickups. It appears to be a customer [for whom] the fuel economy or the image of a pickup truck didn’t work, but now that we’ve modernized it, they found it more interesting.

If someone is new to EVs, what makes them choose the Lightning over a Tesla or even a Mustang Mach-E?

It’s like modernizing the American horse. It’s a very positive image. Pickups have a kind of unique feel despite being a mainstream product. I’m sure they’re high-end customers, and they don’t have to worry about what people in their neighborhood say now: “You’re buying a pickup truck? I thought you were buying a BMW or something.” So it doesn’t have the stigma of being electric.

But what we mostly hear is that they like the Pro Power Onboard – the idea that you can power your house when you’re out of power; that’s the really game-changing feature for these customers.

Since becoming CEO, you’ve really accelerated Ford’s EV plans. Does Ford ultimately have to be 100 percent electric in the US?

We have a lot of rural customers at Ford that many other brands don’t have. We have Super Duty customers who do heavy hauling: horse trailers, people in the energy industry who haul big loads very long distances. It’s hard for me to imagine that all of these customers will be driving electrically in the next 10 years. They’re actually just as interested in the technology as anyone else, just their use case is different than how we’ve designed the vehicles before. It feels, at least for Ford, that the transition is happening faster than we thought. But again, it’s the first inning of a maybe nine-inning game.

Beyond Blue Oval City, will you need new assembly plants as you transition to electric vehicles, or will you reuse what you already have?

Of course, if you’re going 40 percent electric, there are plenty of options on the fitment side. We announced this new facility; it’s going to be a huge site, and it’s going to build a vehicle that we don’t have today from a brand new platform – a full-size pickup truck platform. We think it will be an incredibly high volume. Which I know for sure we need to build more? battery systems.

In the early days of COVID, was Ford too conservative about canceling chip orders you didn’t think you needed?

In hindsight absolutely. But who would have known? I was in Dearborn Truck when we shut everything down. I was with [UAW President Rory Gamble] and he said that people were afraid to come to work. I looked at John Savona and Kumar [Galhotra] And said, “Let’s turn it off.” How was I supposed to know?

They came up with the idea of ​​delivering unfinished vehicles to dealers. Are you past this point?

I think we have to be very open. We’re still discussing it today. I believe we trust our dealers; You are one of our greatest assets. If we had to do that and we did the right quality assurance and process, I wouldn’t hesitate at all. We have not been in this situation before; It looked like it at first, but I wouldn’t calculate that yet. We believe this will continue to some extent into 2023, and who knows what next year has in store for us?

Ford’s stock has nearly tripled under your watch. Why does Wall Street like what you’re doing now?

Ford works best with a plan. You must have a plan. We have the Ford+ plan; Everyone knows what it is. We’re going against the plan. We’re transforming our automotive operations, our quality is getting better, our product launches are getting better. And if there’s one thing I want to leave you with, it’s that I don’t want to change that plan. It’s a good plan. That’s exactly what we need. But what keeps me up at night, as always, is the execution. How will we become the #2 in the US for battery electrics in the next few years? This is execution.

Would you consider spinning off the AV or EV business or even Ford Pro?

Everything is on the table at Ford. Whatever is best for Ford. We have already said that we are now very open to Argo being available to the capital markets, this is a big change for us. Everything is on the table to make this transition and create this value. Nobody and nothing is sacred. In the last 14 months we have come out of Brazilian manufacturing and same in India.

Does Ford need to do more to educate dealers about EVs? If yes, what will you do about it?

Absolutely. First of all, you need to understand that Ford’s market presence and dealer network is very different from our competitors. We have tremendous strength in the commercial arena. Commercial traders are very different from retailers. If you look at one commercial dealer – Brian in Cleveland – he sells nothing but white trucks and vans. And 100 percent of its profits come from the service. It’s open 24 hours a day and does business with people across Ohio. So Brian’s dealership is going to change a lot. But the battery electric vehicles that we will distribute and the services that we will sell at Ford Pro will be really different than retail. We will sell telematics services, we will finance our small customer’s shop ourselves, not just the vehicle fleet. We will have full charging solution for the customers we will get.

We want to be the supercharger network for depot shops. These dealers’ businesses will increasingly be remote and they will be heavily integrated into Ford Pro’s service portfolio. Your business becomes much more specialized. For our retailers, this electric shift is a big shift for them and their employees. You also have to go remotely for the maintenance of the vehicle. And the questions they’re going to get are really us [use over the air updates on] The vehicle will be completely different from the questions you receive from customers today. It’s going to be more of a genius bar type of relationship with customers. Probably more on your phone making calls than going to the dealer. Much of the business will take place remotely, as the customer desires. As far as we know about the vehicle, yes, we have a huge job to do. But let’s do that now.

Ford Motor Co. sold brands during the Great Recession. Have you ever considered expanding Ford’s brand portfolio?

I think we’re kind of on Broncos and Mustangs. But instead of a vertical brand like Mercury, we’re doing it horizontally where we’re creating these vehicle families. Sometimes ICE, sometimes digital. So yes. I think Maverick will be a new franchise. Just think about what we just did. It’s a $20,000 hybrid vehicle, and the response was totally out of control. As a Maverick family, could we build other affordable vehicles? yes of course we could I think we’re going to need these kinds of brand extensions, but they’re going to stay in our icons.