The Ford F-150 Lightning electric pickup could gain the first-mover advantage

A Ford F-150 Lightning on display at the New York Auto Show, April 13, 2022.

Scott Mlyn | CNBC

DETROIT — Ford Motor looks set to be the first automaker to bring a mainstream full-size electric pickup truck to the U.S. market, poised to capitalize on a first-mover advantage in a segment that will grow in years to come expected to be hotly contested.

Ford CEO Jim Farley said the company plans to scale production of its F-150 Lightning electric pickup truck faster than its competitors, with plans to increase production of the Lightning to 150,000 units next year at a plant in Dearborn, Michigan . from an initial target of 40,000 vehicles.

That would dwarf the plans of Rivian Automotive and General Motors, which are expected to number in the tens of thousands. Both already produce and sell more expensive electric pickups in smaller and larger truck segments.

Other companies, particularly EV startups, have previously touted the electric pickup as a huge opportunity but have so far failed to implement it on a large scale.

“In this market, being a first mover is a very, very important step,” Farley told CNBC. “We didn’t know we were going to be first, but we worked fast if we were and it turned out that way. I think that could be one of the most important advantages we have.”

According to Farley, Ford is “confident” that it can meet its production target of 150,000. He said the company has secured the lithium-ion batteries needed for that level of production — a top concern for investors and Wall Street analysts. Ford will also prioritize semiconductor chip shipments, which have been a major supply chain problem for more than a year, for the Lightning, Farley said.

“We’re not joking. We think this is as big a product as it was when the Model T came out for us,” Farley said, referring to Ford’s flagship product, credited with being the catalyst for mass adoption of horse-and-drawn vehicles from 1908 onwards.

Shipping is imminent

Some believe the F-150 Lightning could be the first real test of whether Americans are ready to adopt non-Tesla electric vehicles. The pickup is also critical to Ford’s $42 billion truck franchise and maintaining its decades-long sales dominance as America’s top-selling truck and vehicle with its F-Series pickups.

Ford has started the first pre-production of its F-150 Lightning electric pickup truck at a new plant in Dearborn, Michigan.

Michael Wayland | CNBC

While Rivian’s R1T electric pickup was the first to hit the market last year, it’s a smaller vehicle than the Lightning, starting at $67,500. GM also began shipping its GMC Hummer EV pickups late last year, but they’re larger than the F-150 Lightning and originally priced around $110,000.

The F-150 Lightning starts at around $40,000 for a work-oriented version and $53,000 – just thousands of dollars above the average price paid for a new vehicle – for a consumer pickup truck.

Ford has started salable production of the F-150 Lightning. The automaker is expected to start shipping the new electric trucks to dealers within a few days.


The first to receive the F-150 Lightning will be select commercial or fleet customers and the 200,000 reservation holders who have placed a $100 refundable deposit on the vehicle since its unveiling last May. According to Farley, it could take Ford more than a year to fulfill those orders.

This timeframe is longer than historical lead times for such vehicles, but is still expected to be earlier than other electric vehicles. New orders for the Hummer EV aren’t expected to be filled until 2024, and Rivian expects to produce just 25,000 vehicles this year.

Ford has started the first pre-production of its F-150 Lightning electric pickup truck at a new plant in Dearborn, Michigan.

Michael Wayland | CNBC

Farley said the company shares the F-150’s internal combustion engine plant, which should help it reach between 150,000 and 200,000 production units per year.

“We build a million F-150s a year. We know how to do it. And we have an incredible size,” he said.

Ford’s recipe for profitability with the F-150 Lightning is indeed benchmark. The Lightning shares parts like seats, doors, and much of the vehicle’s interior with its traditional gas-powered siblings to help with pricing and supplier development.

It’s a different strategy than GM, Rivian, and Tesla, all of which have unique electric truck platforms. And it’s a strategy that helped Ford bring the vehicle to market.

Sharing parts is also said to help boost production, but has faced criticism from the company for preferring a dedicated EV platform. Ford eventually expects to build a dedicated EV platform at a new plant in Tennessee.

Unlike the Hummer and R1T, Ford places great emphasis on targeting fleet customers with the F-150 Lightning. About 20% to 30% of initial production will go to these customers, but Farley said he believes demand from corporate and factory customers could eventually outstrip the consumer market.

growing segment

LMC Automotive expects the US electric pickup truck market to grow from about 25,000 vehicles this year to about 1 million by 2030. The five electric pickup models available this year are expected to grow to 21 over the next decade.

The race to release electric pickups has largely been sparked by Tesla and other EV startups eyeing the segment Detroit automakers have dominated for decades.

Ford’s F-Series, which includes the F-150 pickup truck and its larger siblings, has been America’s best-selling vehicle for 40 straight years and the industry’s best-selling truck for 45 years. Both are titles that Ford does not want to do without when it comes to electric pickups.

“We’re not going to cede the future to anyone,” Farley told CNBC last year. “Our electrical strategy is very specific. We will invest in segments where we are the dominant player and have large size, like the F-150, the transit van, our Mustang.”

Ford has announced plans to ramp up production capacity to 2 million electric vehicles by 2026 as the company aims to become the second-biggest seller of such vehicles after Tesla by then. Crosstown rival GM has said it will surpass Tesla in domestic electric vehicle sales by 2025.

Both automakers have big catching up to do with Tesla, which accounted for about three out of every four EVs sold in the first quarter of this year. The Ford F-150 Lightning electric pickup could gain the first-mover advantage

Chrissy Callahan

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