Less than three years after Elon Musk showed off the flashy Cybertruck, battery-electric vehicles in the guise of traditional pickup trucks are rolling of an assembly line at Ford Motor Co.’s historic Rouge complex near Detroit.
While the oft-delayed Cybertruck will reportedly arrive next year, Ford’s willingness to press ahead with the F-150 Lightning underscores the rapidly changing public perception of electric vehicles and how the demand is growing.
“Today we celebrate the Model T moment for the 21st Century at the Rouge Electric Vehicle Center,” said Ford Executive Chairman Bill Ford. “The Rouge is where Ford perfected the moving assembly line, making it a fitting backdrop as we make history again. The stunning anticipation for F-150 Lightning is a credit to the work of our Ford engineers and designers, and the UAW team members who are building these trucks with pride.”
The F-150 Lightning is being built at the new Rouge Electric Vehicle Center within the Rouge Complex. It also part of the F-Series family, which has been America’s best-selling truck for 45 years in a row and is second only to the iPhone in revenue among all American consumer products, according to a 2020 study.
Quick truck and quick sales
The F-150 Lightning promises to be the fastest-accelerating F-150 yet and the only full-size electric pickup available now with a starting price less than $40,000, officials said.
Ford executives noted the unprecedented demand for F-150 Lightning with 200,000 reservations and is expanding the Rouge Electric Vehicle Center to ramp up production to a planned annual run rate of 150,000 in 2023.
The company has invested a total of $950 million and created 750 jobs at the Rouge Electric Vehicle Center. Ford’s investment in Michigan for F-150 Lightning alone now totals more than $1 billion, with 1,700 recently created jobs spread among five Ford plants in the state of Michigan, including Van Dyke Electric Powertrain Center, where Lightning electric motors and electric transaxles are assembled, and Rawsonville Components Plant, where Lightning batteries are assembled.
“America’s real transition to electric vehicles starts now,” said Ford President and CEO Jim Farley. “F-150 Lightning is just the beginning of our ambitions for growth and leadership in digital, electric vehicles.
“We continue to expand our EV manufacturing footprint across the U.S., including the start of site preparation at BlueOval City, which will enable us to meet the ever-increasing customer demand for our exciting EV line-up.”
Farley noted Ford is now on track to deliver more than 2 million electric vehicles annually by 2026, equal to about one-third of the company’s global volume, on the way to 50% by 2030.
Biggest vehicle, biggest gamble?
The F-150 Lightning, unlike the GMC Hummer or Rivian R1T, is based off an everyday product with a strong generational loyalty. Ford owners tend to keep buying Ford products — especially trucks. Ford using its most popular — and one of its most profitable — vehicle as an entry point into electrification is a bold move.
During the vehicle’s introduction last May, Farley told reporters “I am looking at this vehicle as a test for adoption of electric vehicles.” He later noted that taking its most popular vehicle and making it electric is a risk because if it goes poorly, it could impact the non-electric model.
“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.