Jesús Alonso / CEO of Ford Spain
The platform awarded to the Valencia plant to manufacture these cars gives air to a sector such as the automobile industry in an uncertain context
The award of the new GE2 electric vehicle platform in Europe from 2025 to the Ford factory in the town of Almussafes (Valencia) represents a boost for the company and its continuity in the coming years. A mirror in which the entire sector in Spain is seen, with many communities pending this type of decision by the big brands. The CEO of the firm in Spain, Jesús Alonso, explains the reasons for this decision that will change the structure of the factories in the face of the “irreversible” emergence of plug-in models.
–What assessment do you make of this award?
–It implies that it will be a platform that will allow the development of electric vehicles with the most advanced technology and also, logically, with all the connectivity required by new products.
-There are still many details to be known, such as the degree of investment, economic resources, labor impact...
–That is what we have to finish developing from now on, what would be the new products that would go on this platform. On the other hand, and in parallel, we have to work on adapting what the labor needs are in a new environment when the manufacture of electric vehicles arrives, which, as we know, require less labor. That is something common to the manufacture of any electric vehicle. And we are going to have to start that path of new labor structures.
-Why do you think that Ford, a firm based in the US, has chosen its factory in Spain and not in other parts of Europe?
– A really very professional selection process has been carried out, focused on the specific data of what each factory contributed. And, given this, well, logically there were all the labor issues, all the issues surrounding the factory, all the issues of the future direction, the approach of local and national governments... In any case, I think that the most important thing has It hasn't been so much the political issues, but it has really been a very professional selection of detail. And we have been fortunate that in the end, in all this data comparison, we have come out better than others.
–Comments on the factor of labor legislation, with the flexibility achieved in recent years throughout the sector. How has it influenced the foreign vision of Spain?
-Indeed, it was another factor of choice. There is a great relationship that we have with the workforce and at the union level. We are capable of accepting that not everything can always be increased, that an agreement can be reached that is good for the workers and good for the company. I believe that this has been achieved historically in Valencia and once again it has also been on this occasion.
– How will it affect the workforce?
–We have to adapt, because the electric car needs less labor to manufacture for obvious reasons compared to a combustion model. That is why we are now beginning the process of deciding together with the unions how to follow that path.
– Is the arrival of the electric car already unstoppable?
Yes, unstoppable and irreversible. We're going over there. In the case of Ford, it is a very clear bet on where we want to go soon. At the passenger car level, in 2030 we only want to sell electric cars in Europe; and in commercial terms, we are talking about two thirds of the vehicles being zero emissions, with which, in our case, in 2030 we are quite close to that goal.
–They even anticipate the EU objective, set for 2035.
–We think it is better not only for Ford and for the customer, but also for our responsibility, for the planet.
–However, there is still a lot of reluctance on the part of customers to acquire an electric model.
– There are two important factors. The most critical is to speed up the implementation of recharging points. That is today the great priority, because it is a factor that retracts when buying. And the second issue is the price. Decisions like ours, where we are going to put all the strength of the company into manufacturing electric cars, has to end up being a way to reduce costs as soon as possible.
–Any movement in a factory like the one in Valencia exerts a tractor effect on the economy of an entire territory, especially with local suppliers. Are they aware of the importance of these decisions like Ford's?
–We are around 6,000 people and what is the direct environment around the factory can be around 25,000. From there, we must take into account the weight we have in the exports of the Valencian Community or the participation in the Gross Domestic Product, which is very high. That is why we are very happy to maintain this driving force for the entire Valencian economy, and logically also for the Spanish economy.
“We hope that vehicle delivery times will improve throughout the year”
The automobile had not just emerged from the crisis caused by the lack of semiconductors when it encountered another bump in the road: rising costs and bottlenecks that continue to relaunch deliveries.
–What assessment do you make of how this 2022 evolves, after half of the year?
-Well, I think it is a year that the whole issue of covid has still affected a lot, especially the first part. We have also had a continuation of the problem that has already arisen since the beginning of last year, of lack of semiconductors and that is improving a little, but we are still very affected by it. And apart from all this, well, all the problems arising from the war in Ukraine and the rise in raw materials are logically coming together, with which we are entering a changing, complicated environment, but at the same time I think we are going to leave adapting. Humans have the ease that we adapt to everything. In any case, I think that we are coping, although it is true that what I perceive today is a decrease in demand, especially at the level of private clients in recent months for all these reasons that we are talking about.
–The delay in deliveries of new cars is also impacting demand.
- Logically that influences. It is also true that what we have discovered is that it is not necessary to have the car there for you to buy it, but that people are willing to wait a bit. But obviously right now in some models, because it is a long wait, and effectively this has caused that when people really need it in the short term, buying a used one is also seen as an alternative. We hope that this availability will improve a little over the next few months so that people who cannot wait can serve the vehicle as soon as possible.
– Are the prospects, therefore, for slow improvement?
-Yes. That's my opinion. From what we're seeing, the whole system is not fixed, it's a little bit better, but we're still very affected by this issue.