Here's what he said to employees.

Legacy automakers like Ford and Volkswagen cannot afford to ignore new competitors like Tesla and Rivian. Tesla managed to change the entire automotive landscape beginning with the launch of the Model S in 2012. At first, mainstream brands didn't take this EV too seriously. The situation is completely different today. Both Ford and VW have committed billions of dollars to battery and autonomous driving technologies while GM plans to be EV-only by 2035.

Given the rapid pace governments are passing strict CO2 emissions standards, most automakers will drop internal combustion entirely within 15 to 20 years. But just because Ford has already launched the Mustang Mach-E and the F-150 Lightning will land next spring doesn't mean it can afford to take a break. Quite the opposite.

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The Detroit Free Press reports Ford CEO Jim Farley told a group of employees during a recent internal gathering that they need to take these rivals very seriously. “We need to be honest with ourselves about the market, the strength of our competition, and the work we need to do together,” he said. “The market is evolving rapidly towards electric. While we’re making progress, and we are, we have a lot of work to do. But our competitors are unbelievable in this space, something we have never seen.”

Farley recently had kind words for Tesla CEO Elon Musk but that doesn’t mean there’s no competition. Even though Ford is one of its main investors, Farley specifically pointed out Rivian as being “a formidable competitor with us.”

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Eventually, Ford will launch a new EV that'll utilize Rivian's Skateboard platform. Farley also noted that, as of right now, only VW is behind Tesla as the world's largest EV manufacturer. The German automaker aims to become No. 1 in 2025. Ford also has a partnership deal in place with VW regarding EV vans and a new EV compact crossover for the European market only.

Having investments and partnerships like these is a good thing but there's still work to do. Farley is keenly aware of that. Innovation is a must and there's a time limit for everything. Ford can't afford to be left behind.

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