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US auto sector 'whipsawed' by politicians, Ford chairman says

BIRMINGHAM, Mich. (Reuters) - The U.S. auto industry needs regulatory certainty from politicians in Washington and the back and forth as the White House changes hands doesn't help, but the adoption rate of electric vehicles will continue to grow, Ford Motor's executive chairman Bill Ford said on Wednesday.

The growth rate on EV sales has slowed, but globally they are being adopted quickly and Ford will follow even as it hedges it bets with its gasoline-powered and hybrid electric vehicles, he said at a Detroit Free Press event outside Detroit.

While not commenting on the race between U.S. President Joe Biden, a Democrat, and former president Donald Trump, a Republican, Bill Ford said he wishes the country would pick a path so the industry can plan better.

"Our planning timeframe is a lot longer than election cycles," he said.

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"We can do almost anything as a company, and frankly as an industry, as long as we have some certainty towards where we're headed," Bill Ford added. "The problem is when we're whipsawed back and forth by politicians. We can't turn on a dime. Just pick a path and we'll go for it."

Michigan is a key battleground state in the election this fall and both Biden and Trump have been speaking to voters, including many industry workers, about the challenges the U.S. auto sector faces. Trump has charged that Biden’s policies will kill auto jobs and aid China’s surging EV industry.

Bill Ford said when he talks with politicians in Washington, he gets very different viewpoints from the two parties.

He said Republicans question the need for EVs, saying the U.S. sector trails China and they don't want to use Chinese technology. Meanwhile, Democrats are pushing the industry to make more EVs and asking what they can do to accelerate the process.

The Biden administration last month handed Detroit automakers a major win by easing proposed rules that would have forced them to scale back production of gas-guzzling vehicles or face billions of dollars in fines.

Bill Ford said the transition to EVs will be gradual and determined by consumers. "We're not shoving anything down anybody's throat," he said.

Ford Motor on Tuesday resumed shipments of its F-150 Lightning electric pickup after an undisclosed quality issue led to a nine-week halt starting in February.

Earlier this month, Ford cut prices of some Lightning variants by as much as $5,500, and it previously cut prices on its Mustang Mach-E electric SUV by up to $8,100 after sales fell.

Also this month, Ford delayed the planned launches of three-row EVs in Canada and next-generation electric pickup truck built planned for production in Tennessee.

Ford CEO Jim Farley has said the U.S. automaker was committed to scaling up its EV business profitably. It lost nearly $4.7 billion on its EV business in 2023 and projected it will lose $5 billion to $5.5 billion this year.

(Reporting by Ben Klayman in Birmingham, Michigan; Editing by Nick Zieminski)