How The Ford Supercharger/NACS Deal Went Down

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A recent interview with Jim Farley by Tom Moloughney at State of Charge revealed some interesting details about how the deal that changed EV charging went down.

When Ford announced that it was moving from CCS1 to Tesla’s NACS plug last year, it rocked the EV charging world. We know from past interviews on this topic that Electrify America and other charging networks’ reliability problems were largely to blame, and Ford knew that there wasn’t a good chance of a successful EV transition relying on existing CCS networks. So, the best move available was to move to the Tesla plug for future models and offer adapters.

Breaking the ice on this led just about every other manufacturer to move to the Tesla plug and network, too. This, in turn, led the other charging networks to get serious about reliability, and we’re starting to see some signs of improvement. The end result will hopefully be that every network (that survives) works great and every EV (other than CHAdeMO cars) has access to every charging station.

But there have still been some lingering questions about how Ford managed to break the ice, and that’s exactly what Moloughney set out to answer. (article continues after embedded video)

How Did The Deal Go Together?

Right away, he asked Farley how he came to the decision to pursue a deal with Tesla, despite the fact that doing that could be seen as embarrassing for Ford. Farley said the moment he realized he had to do this was when he took a trip to Lake Tahoe with his kids in an F-150 Lightning. His kids kept seeing Tesla Superchargers along the way, and he had to explain to them that they couldn’t use them. This was especially bad, because the whole family was experiencing anxiety and the truck almost didn’t make it back to Monterey.

Seeing how this works as a customer and not simply from a plush office as the CEO led him to ask Ford employee Doug Field, a former Tesla employee, about the possibility of getting Ford’s vehicles on Tesla’s blatantly superior network. Field reached out via backchannels to Tesla to feel them out, and initially was told that it was probably not possible. But, he kept talking about it with Field and others at the company, and the data kept looking worse and worse for CCS networks. This shocked Farley, but didn’t shock Field, as Field knew Tesla was in much better shape.

So, Farley decided that this was worth reaching out to Elon Musk personally about, even if that meant abandoning some arrogance. The numbers simply were too awful to justify not doing everything he could to seal that deal. He specifically mentioned Tesla’s mission when making the request, and Musk ended up being open to the idea after thinking it over.

Shockingly, it only took about two weeks to put a contract together! After the deals were finalized, Farley’s team and Musk’s team had to put a lot of effort in to get it all working well for both Tesla and for Ford vehicles.

How The Other Companies Responded

Moloughney mentioned that Ford likely drug all of the other companies to follow along, and that it might have been something they really didn’t want to do. So, he asked if anybody else got mad at him for doing this. Farley said that nobody else called him or expressed frustration with his decision, but he wasn’t surprised at all when GM and then the other companies followed in Ford’s footsteps. Like Ford, the other companies really didn’t have much choice.

“You don’t ever want to be on the wrong side of customers,” Farley said.

Will Charge Port Locations Change?

When asked about whether the location of charge ports would change, Farley said, “Absolutely.”

He said that the decision to change plugs is the bigger part of the deal in the long run. Farley thinks that the Tesla design and its software leads to better reliability even completely separate from the Tesla Supercharger network. As part of this change, Ford is definitely going to consider where the ports should be located for future vehicles.

He won’t tell people what vehicle will get the J3400/NACS inlet first, but he says that the company’s next-generation products will surprise us all (and get the inlet). But, Ford’s keeping all that under wraps for now to avoid giving competitors any kind of a chance to respond.

Why Free Adapters?

There was initially some confusion over whether Ford was really going to do free adapters, but Farley said that Ford’s PR people were told that the adapter was going to be free. He says this was personally his decision, despite some internal debate over it. He felt that giving the adapters away was the best move for Ford’s brand. He was extremely adamant about that!

He wanted customers to be able to say, “Ford did the right thing, and we’re going to stick with Ford.”

Is It Hurting Sales For Today’s CCS Vehicles?

Another big question everyone has been asking is whether sales are slowing down because people are waiting for a NACS-native EV. Farley says that he’s not sure, but that it “could be.” But he thinks that affordability is a much bigger factor. Sales are still growing, and not shrinking like some of the disinfo artists claim, but he’s working on getting prices down to get sales up.

Is Customer Data Shared?

Farley gave a clear “No” to this one. All customer data stays in Ford and is subject to Ford’s privacy rules and protections. But he does state the obvious: that Tesla will definitely get a customer’s data if they choose to use the Tesla charging app and pay for their sessions via that app. (Duh!) Going through the Ford Pass app (including Plug&Charge) means that only Ford gets that data.

He said that demands for customer data would have been a deal breaker, because he thinks customer privacy is paramount.

Worth A Watch

I do want to make clear that while I shared some of the key details from the video, it’s still something that everyone should watch. Some of Tom’s conclusions were great, and hearing how Farley shared this information is a big part of understanding it. So, if you have a few minutes, you should definitely watch it yourself!

Featured image by Ford.

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