In the mid-80s when I was looking to buy a computer, my Detroit News colleague Matt Beer, who was an early adopter of technology, insisted I buy a Mac. In those days, Apple catered to a niche customer base and its long-term survival was far from assured. Microsoft had come out with Windows, which was a rip-off of Apple’s user-friendly operating system interface, and I was inclined to go with Windows-enabled computers because they cost significantly less.

“Eric, why would you buy a computer that tries to be a Mac when for a few dollars more you can buy a real Mac?” I recall Beer admonishing me.

I went for the Mac, and I’ve been hooked on Apple products ever since. Among the reasons for my loyalty is that on the rare occasions when I need customer support, I can easily get someone on the phone located in the good old United States of America or Canada who can readily understand my issue and typically can fix it.

Reading this Ford Motor Co. news release announcing that the EV automaker wannabe has reached an agreement with Tesla Motors that will provide the measly 65,000 owners of Ford electric vehicles access to more than 12,000 Tesla Superchargers across the U.S. and Canada, I immediately recalled Beer’s wisdom from decades ago.

At first blush, the announcement seems like a huge coup as Ford claims it will double the number of fast-chargers available to Ford EV customers starting next spring. Range anxiety is one of the biggest concerns for people willing to consider buying an EV, and Ford’s announcement seemingly indicates the company’s EV buyers won’t have to solely rely on the problem plagued charging stations across the country that aren’t ready for prime time and possibly may never be.

To use a phrase from a bygone era, Tesla’s Superchargers are the Cadillac of EV charging.

Ford’s announcement has received glowing praise from the media and Wall Street analysts, and the company’s stock closed just above $12, a gain of 6%. Pardon me for being a spoilsport, but I view Ford’s Supercharger announcement as yet another example of how pathetic a company Ford has become.

Let’s take a closer look at Ford’s announcement.

The news release says Ford EV owners will have access to 12,000 Tesla Superchargers in the U.S. and Canada but doesn’t say where the Superchargers will be located and how the determinations were made. The Wall Street Journal reported today that Tesla has 17,700 fast-chargers in the U.S. I can’t determine how many Superchargers Tesla has in Canada, so it’s unclear how many Tesla fast-chargers Ford’s EV buyers in the U.S. and Canada will have access to in their respective countries.

Ford photo

Not surprisingly for a company that paid $19.2 million for allegedly telling bald face lies in its advertising, Ford’s claim that its EV buyers will have access to more than 12,000 Superchargers is misleading. The White House in February announced with great fanfare that Tesla agreed to open 3,500 new and existing Superchargers along highway corridors to non-Tesla customers. Tesla also agreed to offer 4,000 slower chargers at locations like hotels and restaurants.

The Superchargers along highway corridors are the most valuable to EV owners because it allows them to travel greater distances. Most EVs are expensive, and many EV buyers own homes where they can charge their vehicles, so urban Supercharging stations for existing EV owners are less critical.

Don’t be naïve and believe Elon Musk’s claim that he’s opening his network because he wants to support all EV manufacturers due to his selfless commitment to the environment. The Journal and other publications reported that partially opening its network will allow Tesla to qualify for a share of the billions of taxpayer dollars the Biden Administration has earmarked to build a national network of EV chargers. Tesla also will make money charging Ford EV owners for use of its network, supposedly at “competitive” rates that weren’t disclosed.

The taxpayer money will help fund Tesla’s previously stated commitment to double its U.S. Supercharging network by the end of next year. Unless Ford has an undisclosed agreement that Tesla will open its network to more Ford EVs as it expands, Ford EV owners will have access to less than one-third of Tesla’s network.

My imagination lacks the sophistication and bandwidth of Musk’s diabolical mind, but even I can figure out how Tesla might leverage its Ford agreement to make Ford EV owners wish they bought a Tesla.

Supposing there’s a location with 10 Superchargers but only three can be used for Ford EV owners. Tesla owners will opt for the Superchargers available exclusively to them, while Ford EV owners will have to line up and wait at the three chargers designated for them. Let’s not forget that Ford hopes its most popular EV will be its Ford Lightning pickup truck, so the Ford line will look even longer. If someone in a Ford Lightning is pulling a trailer, likely more havoc will result.

Even if my imagined scenario is mistaken or off base, it’s tragic that Ford, which was founded in 1903 and pioneered the moving assembly manufacturing line, is so dependent on an upstart twentysomething rival to remain remotely competitive in the EV space. Perhaps no one is more in awe of Elon Musk than Ford CEO Jim Farley.

As noted by The Street’s Luc Olinga, Farley was slobbering all over Musk during a chat on Twitter Spaces, the platform’s live audio feature, to announce that Musk had agreed to throw Farley a bone.

“This is a really, really big deal for our customers,” Farley repeated the second time he spoke, after having already thanked Musk for the deal. 

“We love the locations [of the Superchargers selected for the deal], we love the reliability, your routing software, the ease of use of the connector, the reliability of it. I think it’s pretty amazing what you and your team have done for the customers.”

Farley wasn’t quite done.

“I was on vacation with my family last year in Lake Tahoe. I was driving back, I think, to Monterey and my kids kept looking at me and going, ‘Hey, Dad, there’s another Supercharger,’” Farley said, while explaining the process that led to him partnering with Musk.

One must question the judgment of a CEO who publicly admits his kids appreciate the superior experience offered by a competitor.

 In another example of how far Ford has fallen, the company is on record as saying it needed to partner with China-based companies to build its Michigan battery plant and to mine lithium in Indonesia because it needed outside help. Moreover, Ford’s Lightning pickup truck and the electric Mustang the company proudly assembles in Mexico are essentially their ICE siblings powered by batteries.

Let’s not forget that Ford’s poor record manufacturing gas engine vehicles. The company issued a record 67 recalls last year and more than two dozen already this year, including two recalls on work done on previous recalls.

Meanwhile, the sorry state of GM’s leadership continues to get exposed.

Munro & Associates, an engineering and manufacturing consulting firm, has determined that GM’s monster and problem plagued Hummer is egregiously energy inefficient; the Hummer draws power from a 246-kWh battery pack, of which 212-kWh are usable. The amount of machine work and welding that goes into a Hummer battery pack was also shocking to the Munro team, as it adds to the manufacturing costs of the truck. There are other design issues as well.

I’ve previously written about the Hummer EV’s safety issues; two reviewers warned the truck doesn’t have adequate braking power, which is alarming given that it weighs more than 9,000 pounds. Imagine if an electric Hummer rammed a Chevy Bolt, which weighs 3,680 pounds.

Then there are the environmental hazards associated with the road damage the Hummer and other EVs will invariably cause because of the weight of their batteries.

 In yet another black eye for GM, the Biden Energy Department this week nixed a proposed $200 million grant to Microvast, a Texas-based battery company, because the company’s operations in China were deemed a threat to U.S. national security. Microvast has a collaboration agreement with GM.
In a news release, Microvast said Yang Wu, its CEO and founder, is a U.S. citizen. It’s not clear why a U.S. company’s China subsidiary is a threat to national security, but Ford’s Michigan partnership with a China-based battery company isn’t.

What’s increasingly obvious is that if EVs are the future, GM and Ford lack the leadership required to compete against Tesla and other foreign auto manufacturers, meaning the U.S. ultimately won’t have any major U.S. automakers headquartered in the country.  Although Tesla’s engineering operations are based in Silicon Valley and its headquarters is nominally in Austin, Tesla’s long-term future is dependent on China. The communist country already accounts for more than half of Tesla’s sales and when Tesla’s second state-of-the-art factory in Shanghai is up and running, China will become even more crucial.

I’m not alone in doubting Musk’s long-term loyalty or commitment to America. The Wall Street Journal reported that China’s leader, Xi Jinping, regards Musk as “a technology utopian with no political allegiance to any country.” I seem to be alone in my concern with that assessment.

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