Ford hires ex-Tesla exec Annie Liu to find EV supplies

Ford hires ex-Tesla exec Annie Liu to find EV supplies

Annie Liu, former head of supply chain, battery and energy at electric vehicle maker Tesla, is now guiding Ford Motor Co. through ongoing supply challenges and material cost issues, the automaker revealed Thursday.

Securing materials for the Mustang Mach-E and Ford F-150 Lightning is essential to Ford’s strategic plan to rapidly expand its electric vehicle production rate. 

Liu plays a key role now as executive director of purchasing for the Ford Model e line of all-electric products and technology, Ford noted Thursday during a media call that included industry analysts.

Ford executives discussed the company’s contracts with Contemporary Amperex Technology Co. of China for lithium-iron phosphate batteries starting next year. This follows news of a contract with SK Innovation of Korea that includes building batteries in a joint venture at plants to be constructed in Kentucky and Tennessee. Ford also is getting batteries from LG Energy Solution of Korea.

‘A lot of work ahead’

At issue is an overwhelming demand for lithium and nickel, said Lisa Drake, Ford vice president of EV industrialization.

She introduced Liu and Marin Gjaja, Ford Model e chief customer officer for battery-operated vehicles.

“We still have a lot of work to do and a lot of work ahead of us. But the team is up for the challenge. Attracting new talent to the team is one of the ways we’ve managed to move so quickly,” Drake said.

“I’m very pleased to announce Annie Liu. She joined us several months ago. And she was formerly at Microsoft and then Tesla. She now leads sourcing for Model e components and the embedded systems for Ford globally,” Drake said. “Annie has tremendous knowledge about technology supply chain development, especially when it comes to raw materials and mining.”

Mining plays key role in autos

Liu, who reports to Drake, said Ford is working to localize raw materials for batteries in the long term. But Ford is currently working with companies in various countries for lithium, natural graphite, aluminum, nickel and cobalt, for example. 

“Battery raw material is in critical supply for the entire EV industry,” Liu said. “Ford is taking an important first step to secure raw materials directly from mining companies. And we’re building an EV supply chain that is geographically diverse.”

She added, “All this effort is just a start. Ford has a great momentum built up to secure the raw materials needed to support our ambitions.”

From Tesla to Model T maker

Liu’s LinkedIn profile indicates she has been based in the Silicon Valley city of Palo Alto, California, and left Tesla in May 2020 after three years there.

Her online biography describes her this way:

  • “Forged multi-billion dollar partnerships with key strategic battery cell and upstream raw material suppliers to meet Tesla’s rapid growth.
  • “Trusted supply chain partner in scaling up novelty battery and energy technologies.
  • “Led a global team of global supply managers and industrialization engineers to support Tesla’s battery and energy business units including battery, battery raw materials, energy storage, solar, and solar glass.”

Ford was not listed as part of Liu’s LinkedIn biography as of Thursday morning.

Deliver or bust

A Ford spokesman was unable to immediately confirm what month Liu started.

She is among a number of hires made by Ford CEO Jim Farley over the past year, people with backgrounds in tech and similar expertise.

Liu says in her LinkedIn profile that she’s a “seasoned supply chain executive with 20+ years experience” and a “strategic execution driver who delivers.”

Liu’s profile says she brings “deep expertise across supply chain, strategic sourcing, manufacturing, mechanical and industrial design all through aggressive global launches.”

Farley has maintained in recent investor relations calls that the company is focused on getting what it needs to produce the Mach-E and F-150 Lightning pickup. The company reports earnings next week.

Liu worked in supply sourcing materials for Microsoft and Sun Microsystems.

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Her expertise in batteries and raw materials dovetails with Ford’s strategy to ramp up to produce 2 million electric vehicles by 2025.

Friends at SpaceX

“Prior to her role at Ford, Liu was a trusted advisor and counselor to many of the world’s influential businesses in the EV value chain,” according to a bio Ford sent to the Free Press.

Her work is endorsed on LinkedIn by T.C. (Tao-Chiang) Chang, manager of strategic sourcing for the Starlink product supply chain at SpaceX; Luis Hsu, a technical program manager at Google, and Iva Wat, a director, packaging engineering manager at Microsoft.

Liu speaks Chinese as well as English.  She earned a bachelor of science in industrial engineering and operations research from the University of California, Berkeley. 

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Contact Phoebe Wall Howard at 313-618-1034 or phoward@freepress.com. Follow her on Twitter @phoebesaid. Read more on Ford and sign up for our autos newsletter.

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