Truck you: Sunrun & Ford vs Tesla


Business development job descriptions tend to be filled with lots of buzz words and are heavy on “strategy”. Most professionals in this position overthink their roles. The fact is that the best business development partnerships are the obvious ones. These are the partnerships that are hiding in plain site. The ones that consumers and industry players both nod about and say “of course”.

This is the case with the recently announced Ford and Sunrun RUN partnership. Let’s set the scene:

The script in the automotive world is that Tesla TSLA has won the next generation of mobility. The Model S and Model Y are mass-market sellers and Tesla is gobbling up EV market share. Last year Tesla unveiled their “in-your-face” Cybertruck to major fanfare and immediately got half a million (non binding) pre-orders.

There was even a video of a Cybertruck towing a Ford F-150 to prove the Tesla’s greater torque. Everyone began writing about the demise of Ford’s market share in the truck market.

The only problem? Ford didn’t agree to the regular Teslas script and Ford is fighting back with it’s biggest asset, the F-150. This is the battle royale for transportation in North America:

  • 1 in every 16 cars on the road is a Ford F-150 truck.
  • Last year there were 350,000 plug-in vehicles sold in the US.
  • For comparison, there were 900,000 Ford F-150 trucks sold domestically in 2019. If Ford can electrify this customer interest, the EV adoption curve will step-change.

Ford stayed quiet, focused on their mobility strengths and just last night delivered a game-changing vehicle. They are delivering the Ford name and trust and form factor used by tens of millions to the market… and they are going to win. Unlike other OEM attempts at electric vehicles, Ford designed the vehicle ground-up for the new power source and is delivering a Ford truck without compromise. What will cement their winning position?

**Enter a New Character: Sunrun**

Tesla has the vehicle, the power wall, the solar roof… and other ancillary businesses. It would be a fools game for an incumbent automotive firm to attempt to re-architect their entire business to have the same scope. It would also be easy for a large firm like Ford to want to tackle that on-site electrification challenge. But, Ford didn’t take the bait. Ford focused on their strengths by quietly developing the mass-market EV truck and is deferring to Sunrun to be their electrification partner.

These Ford trucks have 300 mile range and so most people will be charging their vehicle at home. The vehicles will also integrate with the home to be a back-up power supply. How? To deliver a more complete, and higher quality solution to the Ford drives, Ford sought out Sunrun and Sunrun’s power expertise. What a smart move for both parties. Sunrun knows how to deliver consumer-level energy experiences at scale.  Ford owners will get increasingly educated about home electrification and soon be subtle targets for Sunrun solar roof systems.

This new F-150 will put millions of EV chargers into homes. It will build resiliency into our grid. And if 5% of F-150 drivers adopt rooftop solar via Sunrun that will add another 50,000 rooftop solar homes to market each year. That partnership alone could increase rooftop solar installation in the US by 20-30%.

Win-Win for Ford and Sunrun. Battle on, Tesla.

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