Aaron Josefczyk/Reuters/File
Ford assembly line worker Ray Lopinski assembles a Duramax engine at a plant in Ohio.

Ford CEO: We tore apart a Tesla. We could build one like it.

Ford CEO Mark Fields says Ford has torn apart and rebuilt a Tesla Model S – and that the company is considering building a similar long-range, high-performance electric car. Ford's current model, the Focus Electric, has better gas mileage but a shorter range than the Tesla Model S.

During an otherwise ordinary conference call with reporters and Wall Street analysts on Friday, Ford chief executive Mark Fields announced that his company has torn apart and rebuilt a Tesla Model S – and is considering building a full-size, long-range electric car of its own.

Why would a carmaker with a 100-year pedigree be interested in emulating Tesla, which was founded just a decade ago? Mr. Fields told reporters that a high-performance electric car would be “consistent with [Ford’s] product philosophy,” adding that the company has the expertise and ability to build an electric vehicle with a large range and cutting-edge technology.

Ford engineers apparently got their hands on a Model S and took a peek under the hood (and by that, we mean they drove it, took it apart completely, reassembled it, and drove it again). This kind of automotive teardown is a pretty common way for companies to study each other’s technology and engineering, and Fields told reporters Ford is “very familiar” with the Model S as a result of having studied it. And while he says the company has no plans to build a car that would compete directly with the Model S, Ford is considering building an electric car with a larger range than its current model, the Focus Electric.

The electric Focus, which began production in 2011, has a range of 76 miles and the fuel economy equivalent of 105 miles per gallon. That doesn’t hold a candle to the Model S’s 265-mile range, but it beats its fuel economy (the EPA rates the Model S at 89 m.p.g.) – and it’s worth mentioning that the Tesla starts at $72,000, while the Ford costs about $30,000.

It’s no stretch to say that Tesla’s Model S is the darling of the car industry overall. In spite of the car’s relatively steep price, Tesla is on track to sell its 50,000th Model S by the end of October. The car received Consumer Reports’ best score of all time. And the company already has plans in the works for a mid-range electric car called the Model 3, which would go mainstream in 2017 to compete with the Nissan Leaf and BMW i3.

Fields’s comments were part of a conversation with analysts about Ford’s third-quarter earnings, which were healthy but down compared to last year’s Q3. The company made $1.2 billion in pre-tax profit and received $835 million net income this quarter.

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