Ford Creates ‘Team Edison’ To Accelerate Its Efforts in Battery-Electric Vehicles – Forbes

A Ford Focus electric concept car with a home charging unit on display at the 2013 North American International Auto Show in Detroit. (Photo by STAN HONDA/AFP/Getty Images)

Ford plans to intensify its investments in battery all-electric vehicles by creating an internal team called “Team Edison” to focus on the technology, headed by its current executive director of investor relations.

Ted Cannis will helm Team Edison, whose aim will be “to focus and grow our battery-electric offerings and create winning battery-electric vehicles,” Sherif Marakby, Ford vice president for autonomous vehicles and electrification, told me. “What’s important is having the focus of this team to think big, move fast and in a very agile way.”

Team Edison will “own the strategy, own the planning, and interface into the trend” by bringing together Ford’s efforts in technology, product development, marketing and advanced manufacturing, Marakby said. “We’ll have leaders from all major areas of the company together to figure out strategy, plans and vehicle offerings.”

Ford is announcing Team Edison the same day that General Motors wowed journalists at its technical center in Warren, Mich., with concept vehicles and other support for the revelation that it plans to launch more than 20 new all-electric, zero-emission vehicles by 2023.

And news of Team Edison comes just a day before CEO Jim Hackett is to talk with analysts and investors in New York to provide his first major update on his three months as chief after succeeding Mark Fields.

Presumably, Cannis’s own experience with Wall Street will be helpful to Ford in communicating what Team Edison is accomplishing in bringing its EV effort up to speed. While Ford was an early leader along with Toyota in fielding hybrid electric vehicles, it has come to lag competitors with fully electric models. Its only EV is a version of the Ford Focus subcompact car, though Ford has said it plans to bring out a fully electric , small SUV with a 300-mile range by 2020. General Motors already has introduced a similar vehicle in the Chevrolet Bolt hatchback, and Tesla has begun producing its Model 3 in small volumes.

Ford Executive Chairman Bill Ford Jr. had said his concerns about “clock speed” were one area of disappointment with Fields and one reason he turned to Hackett to fill the top job. And while Ford Jr. clearly wanted to accelerate the company’s activities in mobility services and self-driving technology when he said that, Marakby’s announcement in part is an acknowledgement that Ford needs faster “clock speed” in EVs as well.

“We see in different markets that consumers are more willing to drive battery-electric vehicles,” and EVs are “a strong trend in markets like China,” Marakby said. Consumers in such main markets “have become more willing ot adapt to battery electrics. In the past, we’ve seen range anxiety and other reasons for people to be hesitant. We see that changing significantly.”

Marakby said that Hackett “has been a big driver of electrification [for] the future” but that the timing of the Team Edison announcement didn’t have anything in particular to do with Hackett’s appearance tomorrow. “He’s been a big supporter of this and a big champion of this.”

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