Tesla’s Biggest Threat to Ford Is Lower Prices

Not satisfied with lowering the sticker price of the Model S by $3,000 earlier this week, Tesla Inc. (NASDAQ: TSLA) CEO Elon Musk cut the price again on Wednesday. The latest price for the Model S is $69,420, about 7.5% lower than it was last Friday.

Startup electric vehicle (EV) maker Lucid Motors announced pricing for its Lucid Air on Wednesday, likely sparking the second Tesla price cut in the week. Lucid set a starting price of $77,400 for its entry-level EV. That price falls to $69,900 after the $7,500 federal rebate is applied. Buyers no longer get the federal rebate on any Tesla EV.

The Mustang Mach-E sport utility vehicle, due out from Ford Motor Co. (NYSE: F) late this year, has a starting price of $42,895 for the company’s first U.S. EV. The Tesla Model Y LR (long-range) SUV starts at $49,900. A comparable Mach-E 4X carries a list price of $57,700 ($50,200 after the federal rebate).

The Model Y LR sports a range of 316 miles on a single charge, while the Mach-E 4X has an estimated range of 270 miles. The pricing difference is almost entirely due to the size of the battery in each car.

Ford’s battery is a 98.8 kWh package with a usable rating of 88 kWh. The Tesla battery is rated at 75 kWh with 72.5 kWh of usable capacity. At last month’s Battery Day, Tesla said it expects to cut the cost of a battery from a current price of around $100 per kWh to around $50 per kWh by 2022.

If Ford can’t match that cost, then it will either have to lose sales volume or lose money on every EV it sells. Loup Ventures analyst Gene Munster reckons that an EV from Ford or any traditional carmaker with equal features and range, when sold at cost, will be 10% to 25% more expensive than a comparable Tesla.

Ford has no plans to build its own battery factories. In fact, the company is targeting Mach-E sales of just 50,000 in its first full year of production. A company executive recently said that Ford would need to produce 100,000 to 150,000 annually in order to justify the cost of a battery factory.

An all-electric F-150 and an all-electric Transit van have been confirmed by Ford, but the company has had little to say about its volume plans. Without sufficient volume and its own battery plant, Ford may not only fall further behind Tesla but find itself chasing GM, Daimler and Volkswagen, all of which are planning to manufacture their own batteries.

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