(This story has been updated with information about the number of reservations Ford received overnight.)
Ford rolled out the 2022 F-150 Lightning last night amid plenty of fanfare, but after the flood lights shut off, the loud music faded and the internet stream ended, Ford CEO Jim Farley talked about the importance of the new truck.
“I am looking at this vehicle as a test for adoption of electric vehicles,” he told reporters after the event. The company is already selling one long-range EV, the Mustang Mach-E and the early results are strong.
The entire allotment of the battery-electric SUV is sold out but converting the F-150 to an all-electric platform represents a different type of challenge, a different type of affirmation — or rejection. Within in the first 12 hours of taking $100 reservations for the new truck, Ford had more than 20,000 online refundable deposits, Farley told CNBC Thursday.
“It’s a mainstream segment. It’s the highest scale we have of any vehicle globally,” he said, referencing that its gas- and diesel-powered siblings have been the top selling vehicles in the U.S. for more than four decades.
Price plus performance equals commitment
This isn’t just some flier the company is taking for the sake of its image or to curry political favor — President Joe Biden’s ringing endorsement of the truck Tuesday afternoon aside — but a serious attempt to produce a profitable, viable EV that the public can afford.
“You saw the price, right?” Farley said. “We’re going to launch at less than $40,000. We want to give the customer … a chance to try this new technology.”
Farley said it was important to see how the truck does as a predictor for future acceptance of more electric vehicles. He noted the Mach-E was sold out, and the company was pleased with that result, but the F-150 Lightning represents a different scenario.
He declined to make the leap that because it was the best-selling vehicle in the U.S. market that the electrified model would then become the best-selling EV as well.
“I think the customers will decide that,” he said. “All I will say is that we should all watch very carefully how this does in the market. Because to me, as we’re talking about 2026, 2030 emissions requirements, this would be a great test for the majority of customers.”
Lightning offers advantages over ICE-powered siblings
Farley made the case that the Lightning offers advantages it’s combustion-powered siblings can’t match, starting with the price. Once the $7,500 tax credit and any other state and local credits are added in, there’s a significant chance that the Lightning will be the less expensive option.
Its overall capability raises its value as well, he noted, including being able to use it to power tools and appliances on job sites, camp sites or game-day tailgates make it a versatile tool. However, there’s still one overpowering selling point for the truck.
“When you stomp on that accelerator,” he said, “and when you drive with the independent rear suspension, the standard four-wheel drive, the battery’s low (position under the floorboard), the zero to 60 in four seconds, I mean that’s going to put a smile on everyone’s face.”
Outlook in chips hasn’t changed
Farley also offered an update on the status of semiconductor production and its impact on the automaker, saying the situation “was playing out the way we said in our first-quarter earnings. This is going to be our worst quarter.”
He noted that Renesas, the Japanese chip maker that was shut down for nearly two months due to a fire in its facility, was back up and running. He noted while the chip maker wasn’t at full capacity yet, it was on “the glide path” to that goal.
“We won’t know until the end of this quarter where they stand,” he said. “So I would say we continue to be smarter and smarter about the engineering module. That’s going well, but it only takes one module to stop the build of the vehicle, so you know, it’s difficult. Now we’re reaching the stage where many of our dealers are running out of product. It’s a different reality now.”