Ford has made some bold moves in the electric vehicle space with its Ford Mach-E. It’s likely the company’s early plans for the Mach-E were hatched when former CEO Mark Fields held the reigns at the Detroit automaker (between 2014–2017). Yesterday, CNBC spoke with Fields about his outlook on Tesla and the EV market today.

“If you look at what Tesla has done, they have really created a kind of iconic brand… an aspirational brand for electric vehicles,” explains Fields. “Tesla’s done a really good job with early adopters and creating that brand.”

“You talk to most Tesla customers, they’re buying it because of the brand. And they get the added factor… [of] we can be cool and help the environment,” says Fields.

But there’s more to it than green cred and brand cachet. Describing Tesla, Fields acknowledges, “EVs are the future of the industry… [and] what’s not talked about is that when you have an electrified product there’s a lot of software management in that. They have a big advantage over the traditional OEMs as [OEMs] are just now starting to do some of their electrified products and it’s yet to be seen if they can master that.”

Former Ford CEO, Mark Fields, discusses Tesla and the EV industry today (Source: CNBC Television)

As an example, Fields points to a recent internal meeting at VW where the CEO admitted the company was behind on the software front and needed to “up their game” — a timely comment as they’re soon launching their ID.3 electric vehicle.

After discussing Tesla’s software advantage, the topic naturally moves to autonomous vehicles. Fields says, “In the case of Tesla, I think. … Will Tesla have an advantage because they have that network of users [already] and could that network of users [be used] as a car service or things of that nature?”

When asked why investor sentiment surrounding Tesla is surging on Wall Street, Fields says investors are likely “viewing it beyond just an automaker. They have a solar business, they have an energy storage business.” And Fields also cites other catalysts pushing Tesla higher. He points to growth in the EV market, a production ramp in China, and (soon) the company’s Gigafactory in Europe.