By on November 8, 2017

Ford/Zotye Agreement

In August, Ford began exploring a possible joint venture with Chinese automaker Anhui Zotye to build electric vehicles in China. While we didn’t know what they would be building exactly, sales of battery-only and gasoline-electric hybrids in China rose by 50 percent last year to roughly 336,000 deliveries — odds were good that whatever came of the team-up would remain in Asia.

Then, on Wednesday, the two companies reached an agreement. Ford and Zotye have greenlit a $756 million joint venture for the creation of an entirely new brand focused on small EVs. The vehicles will probably be among the most petite Ford will offer in Asia, as it has already committed itself to shifting at least 70 percent of Ford-branded vehicles sold in the country to electrified powertrain by 2025. The new brand will also produce “city cars” as its primary stock.  

“Zotye Ford will introduce a new brand family of small all-electric vehicles,” Ford group vice president Peter Fleet said in the statement. “We will be exploring innovative vehicle connectivity and mobility service solutions for a new generation of young city-dwelling Chinese customers.”

We wouldn’t mind seeing a funky little subcompact arrive on Western shores but understand that might not make sound business sense to Ford’s beancounters. EVs are still a niche market in North America and small cars aren’t currently in fashion. But, with every manufacturer talking about electric mobility, we wouldn’t rule anything out on a longer timeline. For now, Ford’s just going to stay where market demand is strongest — which is understandable.

We just hope to eventually get something out of the deal. Maybe a hip little city car called the Ford Funk (a nod to the company’s tractor heritage) to rival the Fiat 500e or Smart Fortwo Electric Drive. Sure, it would be a sales failure, but it would also likely be better than either of those cars in every conceivable way. It might even develop a weird cult following. But we’re getting ahead of ourselves; Ford has to get the EV ball rolling in Asia and convince the Chinese to support this new brand before it can demo any weird products here.

[Image: Ford Motor Company]

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