Ford made a huge announcement late last week that culminates in the single-biggest investment in the company’s 114-year history. The 11.4 billion dollar creation of three new facilities, which includes a fourth F-Series assembly plant in the U.S., represents the largest ever U.S. investment in electrification at one time by any automotive manufacturer.
Ford is clearly all in on electrification and is preparing for the future.
The automaker seem to be following a familiar path that was initially laid out by Tesla, although Ford seems to be avoiding the pitfall that Tesla fell into with the Cybertruck. Tesla has had to postpone the production of the Cybertruck several times due to being ill-prepared for demand and mass production of its electric truck. Additionally, the batteries required for such mass-produced vehicles are all too important — another lesson that Tesla earned.
Elon Musk Tweeted out: “In an electric future, batteries are as essential to transport as oil is today.”
With this lesson, Ford seems to be setting themselves up for success in an electrified future. Subtly mentioned on more than one occasion in the press release was reference to electric F-Series trucks. Note the plural. As of now, the only electric truck planned is the F-150 Lightning, which has started pre-production.
Currently, the F-150 Lightning is built at Ford’s Rouge plant in Dearborn, Michigan. But with allegedly 150,000 pre-orders for the Lightning, Ford clearly believes it won’t have the capability for such demand. And likely it saw how such demand for the Cybertruck cost Tesla in lost production time, so Ford announced the fourth assembly plant that will be built in Stanton, Tennessee.
With a dedicated plant to electric trucks, Ford is primed for success.
I counted three different references to the use of trucks (plural) and reference to F-Series electric trucks. Not once was the Lightning mentioned by name. I’m extrapolating that this means more Ford electrification is coming to the truck lineup. I asked Martin Günsberg, Platforms, Connectivity and New Business Communications for Ford, that question. His response was expected but was also not a denial:
“The Tennessee assembly plant is dedicated to electric vehicles and will build the next generation electric F-Series. This growth opportunity allows us to expand our range of all-electric F-Series trucks to reach new truck customers.”
Once again there’s that reference to multiple electric trucks and an all-electric “F-Series.” When I pressed him for more details, he replied: “It’s too soon to discuss specifics however this investment will allow us to expand our all-electric F-Series range.”
Note: F-Series encompasses more than just the F-150 — think F-250, F-350, etc.
I believe the real answer to the question of what to make of this investment comes in with a line from Ford’s Blue Oval City press release, which states: “Reimagining how electric vehicles – and the batteries that power them – are designed, manufactured and recycled, Ford is creating an all-new electric vehicle manufacturing ecosystem.”
That EV manufacturing ecosystem (i.e. the batteries that power them) is where Ford is heading. It will mean better range for the F-150 Lightning and the inevitable and obvious addition of electrification and battery-powered hybrids that are coming to F-150 and Super Duties. Read the tea leaves, people.
On Ford’s commercials for the F-150 Lightning, it showcases powering your house with the battery power of the truck. When Publisher Tim Esterdahl had his F-150 hybrid before he sold it, he showcased the wonder of the Pro Power On Board generator. This is clearly a smart selling point for a hybrid pickup truck.
And Ford doesn’t appear to want to get caught with its pants down (like Tesla did with the Cybertruck). So, it is funneling $11.4 billion into battery technology. Partnering with SK Innovation, it will not only create 11,000 new jobs across two states (Tennessee and Kentucky) but also prepare for its electrified future whether that means hybrids or full EVs.
For a company that is clearly fully committing to electrification, as Ford is, it sure are acting non-committal when it comes to confirming if more EV pickup trucks are coming. Although, reading the tea leaves, it’s pretty obvious Ford is starting this “new chapter in automobile history.”
The economic impact on the country is huge — and that’s a good thing. Ford is not shying away from its goal of an electrified future. It certainly put its money where its mouth is.
This is all fine and good, but it’d be great if Ford could share further details about what that electrified future might look like when it comes to its best-selling nameplate in the F-Series. Will the average truck buyer want an electric-only truck? How soon will this transition start?
We support the investment and appreciate the boldness of Ford Motor Company, but we also hope it takes into account the consumer interest and not try to force EVs onto unwilling consumers.
Hopefully one of the biggest short-term things to come from this is a high-range F-150 or Super Duty. The F-150 Lightning has a range estimated around 300 miles, but that’s without payload or towing. That’s been one of the big criticisms and uncertainties about an electric pickup truck. Imagine the next-generation electric F-Series (Super Duty?) that can double that range and handle all your towing needs? If that’s what Ford has in mind from its Blue Oval City investment, then count us in.