GM, Ford expect backlogs to clear this year

The biggest negative in Ford’s third- quarter results was the decision by Ford and fellow investor Volkswagen Group to shut down Argo. Ford now plans to scale back its self-driving vehicle ambitions — an area where GM and partner Cruise are continuing to grow.

Ford had invested billions into Argo and initially planned to deploy Level 4 self-driving vehicles for commercial use in 2021. But CEO Jim Farley last week said the automaker now believes profitable mass deployment of fully self-driving vehicles is “a long way off.” Lawler said it’s likely “five-plus years away.”

Ford said it has halted spending on Level 4 advanced driver-assist systems to focus on lower-level technology that can be deployed sooner.

When Ford eventually does develop Level 4 technology, Lawler said it’s expected to focus on commercial services such as package delivery, which it had been testing in various cities with Argo.

Farley said Ford plans to hire “a couple hundred” Argo employees to expand and accelerate development of technology categorized as Level 2 Plus and Level 3 because they rely on more driver interaction.

Doug Field, Ford’s chief advanced product development and technology officer, said creating fully autonomous vehicles is the most difficult challenge facing the industry.

“It’s harder than putting a man on the moon,” he said.

Amid GM’s strong third-quarter report, CEO Mary Barra said the automaker expects to build fewer electric vehicles by the end of next year than it previously forecast, citing a slow start to production at a new battery plant in Ohio.

The company now expects to produce 400,000 EVs in North America by mid-2024, rather than by the end of 2023 as it outlined in February.

“We had a very aggressive plant launch plan when we started to build the plant,” she told analysts, citing employee training as one element that has taken longer than anticipated.

Ford, meanwhile, said it remains confident it can meet a goal of producing 600,000 EVs by the end of 2023 and 2 million by 2026.

“There is no change to our target,” Farley said.

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