EV Startups Face 'Real Financial Trouble' Amid Slow Adoption, Ex-Ford CEO Says

By Leira Aquino

Mar 17, 2024 10:18 PM EDT

Mark Fields, Then-President and CEO of Ford Motor Company, speaks with the media in 2015. Fields, now a CNBC contributor, warns of potential financial difficulties ahead for electric vehicle (EV) startups due to sluggish adoption rates and unexpected challenges.
(Photo : Bill Pugliano/Getty Images)

Amid a landscape of slow electric vehicle (EV) adoption and unforeseen challenges, former Ford CEO Mark Fields has warned of impending financial struggles for EV startups, indicating a turbulent period ahead for the industry.

Fields, now a CNBC contributor, highlighted the disparity between the expectations of rapid EV growth among automakers and the reality of slower-than-anticipated market penetration. 

EV Industry Faces Struggle as Growth Fails to Meet Expectations

"The pace that all the automakers were expecting is not there," Fields remarked in an interview with CNBC's Squawk on the Street.

This discrepancy has resulted in price reductions, increased inventories, and heightened incentives from EV manufacturers.

While early EV adopters were primarily driven by factors like innovation and environmental impact, a significant portion of them have already acquired their vehicles.

The former Ford president suggests that electric vehicle manufacturers should now prioritize mainstream consumers, who value cost and convenience

Fields pointed out concerns such as charging infrastructure limitations and prolonged charging times as significant deterrents for the average buyer.

"The consumer in the mainstream market is going to say, you know what, when you figure all that stuff out, then I'll really consider this," Fields stated. "But until then, I'll either stick with my internal combustion engine, or alternatively, as you're seeing, with hybrids, a really great solution for consumers right now."

He noted the increasing popularity of hybrid vehicles as a viable alternative for consumers seeking a compromise between traditional internal combustion engines and full electrification.

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Optimism Persists for Electric Vehicle Transition

Despite the challenges, Fields remained optimistic about the eventual transition to electric vehicles. However, he cautioned that the process would be gradual, likening it to the phased-out adoption of horse-drawn carriages with the emergence of automobiles.

Addressing the fate of EV startups, Fields expressed concerns about their financial viability amidst the evolving automotive landscape. 

Recent reports have shed light on the struggles faced by several prominent EV startups, including Fisker, Rivian, and Lucid. Fisker, in particular, recently enlisted restructuring advisors amid speculation of a possible bankruptcy filing

Rivian, backed by Amazon, announced delays in factory plans to mitigate financial strain, while Lucid has experienced a significant decline in market capitalization and lowered production forecasts.

These developments highlight the challenges confronting EV startups as they navigate through a period of slower-than-expected growth and heightened financial uncertainty.

While the transition to electric vehicles remains inevitable, the road ahead poses significant hurdles for both established automakers and emerging EV startups alike.

READ MORE: Cybertrucks Are Very Eye-Catching, Tesla Is Using it as Marketing Tools

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