Dog named King wears driving goggles and sits in the driver's seat of a Model T Ford car with his paws on the steering wheel.
Photo: Vintage Images/Getty Images

Ford’s EV division is a tech startup in disguise

Source Code

Good morning! Ford is reorganizing so its electric vehicle business is a separate division, but the move is about more than cars. I’m Brian Kahn, and despite being a climate journalist, I’ve never driven or sat in an EV. (Someone please lend me your keys so I can go for a spin!)

Also, tell us your favorite messaging apps! Do you prefer text? WhatsApp? More info at the end of the newsletter, but tell us which one is your go-to (bonus points if it's a surprising one), and we’ll feature our favorite answers in the Sunday edition of Source Code.

Ford splits its focus

Spring is upon us, which means it’s time to clean out those closets. And Ford is doing some spring cleaning of its own: The company announced it's undertaking a massive overhaul of how it does business, splitting its electric and internal combustion vehicles across two divisions. Large corporations, they’re just like us.

Ford’s reorganization is the biggest in its 118-year history. The company that created the Model T has been through some big shifts in its century-plus. But the move announced yesterday is a whole other ballgame.

  • Ford will be split into two divisions: The EV unit will be called Ford Model e, and Ford Blue will “build out the company’s iconic portfolio of ICE vehicles.” (ICE is “internal combustion engine” for the non-car people among us.)
  • The company said the plan, dubbed Ford+, will allow it to build 2 million EVs by 2026 and ensure that 50% of the vehicles it sells in 2030 will be electric.
  • The two divisions will be run separately, but the company said they would “also support each other.”
  • Ford said it chose to go this route after seeing the success of developing the Mustang Mach-E, GT and F-150 Lightning coupled with its dedicated EV division in China.

The move is about more than electric vs. gas-powered vehicles. Cars have always been pieces of hardware.

  • But while Ford Blue will continue the industrial side of that hardware production, Ford Model e will be focused on improving the technology.
  • The company said it would be responsible for building “key technologies and capabilities — such as EV platforms, batteries, e-motors, inverters, charging and recycling.”

In other words, the meat (fake, of course) and potatoes of Ford Model e’s work is going to be focusing on the technology the company needs to be a viable vehicle business for the rest of the 21st century. In other other words, Model e is basically a tech company inside a car company that will be working on things like the entertainment systems inside the vehicles, as well as the batteries that keep the cars rolling. It will also look at different ways to recycle parts so Ford can move toward a circular economy.

The momentum for EVs is building like never before. Ford’s news is definitely splashy, but it’s hardly all there is on the EV front.

  • President Joe Biden praised the company and GM for investing in the EV side of their businesses in his State of the Union address.
  • Which of course made Elon Musk big mad.
  • The Biden administration also recently announced it was making $5 billion in funding available to states to build out the nation’s EV charging network, care of the bipartisan infrastructure bill.

But whether it’s fast enough to meet the scale of the climate crisis is TBD. The United Nations released a major climate report the same week as Ford’s big news. (Who was trying to upstage who, here?)

  • It warns of the massive risks we collectively face if the world fails to rapidly shift away from burning fossil fuels. We don’t need to run through the litany of horrors here, but suffice to say that the stakes are clear as day.

The transportation industry is the biggest source of carbon pollution in the U.S. It also accounts for around a quarter of global carbon pollution, according to the International Energy Agency. Obviously the world needs to clean up every source of carbon dioxide emissions possible, but transportation plays a particularly major role.

Ford’s reorganization crucially doesn’t include a sunset date for when it will stop selling gas-powered vehicles. Nor does it commit Ford Blue to improving fuel economy or manufacturing smaller cars, which would have the benefit of lower emissions and being less likely to kill pedestrians. (Heck, EV trucks are even heavier thanks to the massive batteries they need.) It’s almost as if Ford is saying, “We’re going to ruin the Earth for a few more years, but it’ll be totally worth it.” The company’s reorg alone isn’t going to make or break the climate, but it will help define the shape of the world for decades to come.

— Brian Kahn (email | twitter)

On the calendar

Recruiting and retaining talent in the new world of work

How do you compete for top tech talent today? And what are the best ways to hold on to your employees in the new labor market? Join Protocol and a panel of talent and workplace specialists at 10 a.m. PT March 3 as they discuss the most innovative ways to recruit and retain great employees. RSVP here.

People are talking

Elon Musk invited/dared the UAW to hold a union vote at a Tesla factory:

  • "Our real challenge is Bay Area has negative unemployment, so if we don’t treat and compensate our (awesome) people well, they have many other offers and will just leave!"

Company Folders’ Vladimir Gendelman said keeping in touch with workers in Ukraine has been hard:

  • “They fear and feel the hail of rockets coming down.”

A MESSAGE FROM MODERN TREASURY

Payment operations can drain time and energy from Finance, Product, and Engineering teams that would otherwise drive growth and deliver greater value to customers. Unsurprisingly, 86% of leaders are now prioritizing improvements to their payment operations. Download our report to learn the costliest payment-related challenges and how fast-moving companies are solving them.

Learn more

Making moves

Netflix is buying Next Games in a push to build up the streaming platform’s “library of great games.”

Epic is buying Bandcamp, which the company hopes will bolster its metaverse plans.

Apple is hosting an event Tuesday called “Peek Performance,” where it’s expected to reveal a new iPhone.

Miguel de Icaza is leaving Microsoft. He joined the company in 2016, when it acquired Xamarin, the open-source developer platform he co-founded.

Gary Steele is the new CEO of Splunk. He previously founded Proofpoint, and will replace interim CEO Graham Smith.

Linda Jojo joined Hero Digital’s board. Jojo is the EVP of Tech and chief digital officer at United Airlines.

In other news

TikTok is being investigated. State attorneys general want to know whether the platform is being pushed to minors and young adults in a way that causes or worsens mental and physical health problems.

Amazon is scaling back its brick-and-mortar ambitions. It's closing 68 store locations and a few brands, but said it's still focusing on Whole Foods, Fresh and a few other retail ideas.

Spotify closed its Russia office, and removed content from RT and Sputnik. It's the latest in a line of platforms to boot state-sponsored Russian media.

Tech’s role in the war: Here’s how platforms, governments and companies have responded so far.

Electronic Arts is taking the Russian national team out of its recent FIFA games. It’s the second big change EA has made to a game in response to the war.

Fitbit’s Ionic smartwatch is being recalled because of a battery overheating problem that burned some users.

Salesforce wants to build more towers. Chicago, Dublin, Sydney and Tokyo are among the possible new locations in which Salesforce wants to build in the next couple years. Employees still aren’t required to be in the office all the time.

Google wants workers back in the office next month. It’s the third major tech company to set a back-to-office date after Meta and Microsoft.

China has new rules for pop-up ads and push notifications. The country won’t allow entities without a news information service license to send push notifications about the news, among other regulations.

What’s your go-to messaging app?

My day talking to people looks something like this: I log on to Slack, where I talk to my colleagues. Throughout the day, maybe I’ll shoot a message to my mom over text. Then, to get in touch with my sister who’s on an international trip right now, I’ll head to WhatsApp.

We want to know your go-to messaging app. What do you use to keep in touch with loved ones? Do you prefer one app for talking to friends? Do you usually text, or is GroupMe still a thing? Respond to this email and let us know, and we’ll round up some of our favorites in the Sunday edition of Source Code.

A MESSAGE FROM MODERN TREASURY

Scaling a company that moves money isn’t easy. Bad process, software, or luck can lead to costly errors, and worse, distract from your main priorities. Yet, many companies still struggle to build scalable payment infrastructure. Download our report to learn the main barriers companies face upgrading their payment operations.

Learn more

Thoughts, questions, tips? Send them to sourcecode@protocol.com, or our tips line, tips@protocol.com. Enjoy your day, see you tomorrow.

Recent Issues