DETROIT — Even as it spends $ 11.5 billion electrifying its vehicle lineup, Ford Motor Co. isn’t aiming to be the next Tesla.
It wants to be the next Peloton.
The battery-electric E-Transit van, set to be unveiled this month, will be the latest example of Ford’s ambitions under new CEO Jim Farley: selling electric vehicles to fleet buyers who may be more willing to consider a new propulsion system than the average retail customer, while expanding into telematics software and other analytics services that complement the vehicle.
Ted Cannis, general manager of Ford’s North American commercial business, likened the approach to that of the fitness company that not only sells the popular stationary bike, but subscriptions for online exercise classes as well.
“We can go from being just the vehicle to the Peloton, if you will — the bike and the workout series,” he told Automotive News. “We can have the whole system.”
Ford already owns a dominant 45 percent share of the U.S. commercial vehicle space with its gasoline-powered vans and pickups, according to company-provided data. Cannis said it can significantly increase profitability and expand share by making those vehicles electric.
While the industry continues to search for ways to increase EV adoption among consumers — Ford thinks it has an answer in its Mustang Mach-E crossover, which went into production last week — Cannis argues that commercial customers won’t need much arm-twisting to go green because of the business case.
“Businesses make investments,” he said. “They’re investing in tools to improve their business every single day. We get as many people coming to us from the ‘this is just good business’ as we do customers who really want to be sustainable. They’re coming in for the lower fuel cost, lower maintenance, and both of those adding to a lot more uptime. It’s the perfect runway for us.”
Another reason commercial buyers might be more inclined to buy an EV is that range anxiety virtually disappears, Cannis said. A plumbing business with a fleet of vans, he says, only services a small area and rarely takes spontaneous long trips that would require a recharge along the way.
There is a potential sales upside for the buyer as well.
A Ford-commissioned study in the U.S., United Kingdom and Germany found that more than half of respondents would choose a green delivery service over a gas-powered one if price and arrival times were the same.
Ford thinks it can make more money from commercial vehicle sales by tapping into additional revenue opportunities from financing options and accessories.
Cannis said 70 percent of Transits are upfitted. Many Super Duty pickups are, too.
“We can create a new ecosystem of services beyond the vehicle that really creates a business off that base,” he said.
That ecosystem will include data and analytics. Ford this year launched a telematics app for fleet businesses that will continue to become more useful as the automaker adds its next-generation software and infotainment system into upcoming vehicles.
“We see significant value,” Cannis said. “If you look at the entire pool of the software services and telematics tools out there and the lack of penetration, particularly in small and medium businesses, there’s a lot of new opportunity that nobody’s taken advantage of.”