Just one word.
That’s all Ford CEO Jim Farley used to respond to Tesla CEO Elon Musk on Friday.
“Tesla & Ford are the only American carmakers not to have gone bankrupt out of 1000’s of car startups. Prototypes are easy, production is hard & being cash flow positive is excruciating,” Musk tweeted Thursday.
Farley retweeted Musk early Friday saying only, “Respect.”
Reaction on Twitter has been swift with likes, retweets and spicy comments.
Musk, of course, is quietly acknowledging the bankruptcies of General Motors and Chrysler, now part of Stellantis. Staying afloat during the Great Recession a decade ago has long been a point of pride for Ford.
Elon Musk has 48.5 million followers on Twitter.
Jim Farley, who assumed the helm as CEO on Oct. 1, has 27,200 now.
Farley succeeds CEO Jim Hackett, who had retired from Steelcase office furniture and had no presence on Twitter during this three-year tenure.
“It is clear that typical business communication etiquette has now reduced itself to 140 characters or less,” said Melissa Bradley, a business professor at Georgetown University.
“It’s interesting how social media has become a primary means of communication for politics and business and everything else. It works best when it’s civil. The tweet today demonstrates that business can be competitive and respectful,” she said.
Musk, 49, is a self-made billionaire who grew up in South Africa and now launches rockets into space. Farley, 58, is a race car-driving son of the auto industry whose grandfather worked in a Ford factory.
The two executives have been in the spotlight this week as the all-electric 2021 Ford Mustang Mach-E has begun stealing customers from the dominant all-electric carmaker, according to sales data for February.
Tesla, founded in 2003, has dominated the electric vehicle market with its Model S, Model 3, Model X and Model Y. Enthusiasts refer to the product line as SEXY. In 2020, Tesla delivered 499,550 vehicles, just missing its goal of 500,000.
In February, Ford sold 3,739 Mach-E SUVs in its first full month of sales, and that generated attention from Wall Street. Ford has sold 3,977 Mach-Es in 2021.
Adam Jonas of Morgan Stanley released his analysis to the media on Wednesday, saying, “Mustang Mach-E Steals Major Tesla Sales” and “Tesla’s share of the BEV (battery electric vehicle) market declined significantly to 69% vs. 81% in the prior year. The Ford Mustang Mach-E accounted for nearly 100% of the share loss.”
Michelle Krebs, executive analyst for Autotrader.com, said the tweet from Musk illustrates Ford is top of mind. Shopping data illustrates that Ford is cutting into Tesla profits immediately, she said.
“The Mustang Mach-E is capturing the interest of Tesla shoppers,” Krebs said. “We need to acknowledge Tesla is going to lose market share. It had 100% and it can’t stay at 100% as competitors come onto the market. In February, Ford was its biggest competitor.”
“If you look at sales numbers for Ford, if they continue at that pace, they would be the bestselling non-Tesla electric vehicle this quarter,” she said. “Chevy Bolt has always been that. We’re waiting for those sales numbers.”