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Future not so bright for electric trucks?

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Recently, a trend has been developing on social media, sparking a rather interesting thought: Are electric trucks already in trouble? Let me explain.

As any casual observer of the news will tell you, electric trucks are coming. You have major brands such as Ford and GM bringing them to market soon. Rivian is already selling trucks. The Tesla Cybertruck (or Cyberturd, as I like to call it) got a refresh ahead of a possible launch. And many other boutique companies are striving to bring out their ideas of an electric truck.

These stories leave no doubt the time of electric trucks is here. But what’s the demand?

If they build electric trucks, will truck owners buy them?

One of the growing angles of concern I’m seeing throughout the comments on electric trucks is the simple: Current EV buyers are the majority of consumers excited about them.

Sure, these buyers should be on the front lines of the excitement since they have already lived with the technology and understand its benefits and limits. This is great for them, but it doesn’t necessarily bode well for the mass adoption that needs to happen to make electric trucks profitable.

Take this story for instance. The Silverado EV forum did a poll and found: “More than 50% of members who’ve reserved a spot in line for the Silverado EV say they’re also considering a Ford F-150 Lightning.”

Additionally, it says: “[O]n one hand, this seems logical — if you’re interested in an electric pickup truck, of course you’d be considering all your options. But American truck buyers are famously brand loyal and so we were taken by surprise to see so many serious Chevy buyers willing to admit they’re considering a Ford. Does the electric-truck race provide an opportunity to reset the narrative when it comes to American truck buyers?”

That conclusion is wrong, and before I say why, I’m going to point out an obvious problem with the above statement: It assumes that people on the Silverado EV forum are “serious Chevy buyers” instead of being “serious EV buyers.” They aren’t the same thing.

Brand loyalty does matter in the truck world

This is the crux of the problem: Most Chevy Silverado owners aren’t going to put their name on a Ford F-150 Lightning reservation because it’s the newest shiny truck out there. Nope. If those owners want an electric truck, they’ll play the long game and wait for the Silverado EV.

This poll above and corresponding conclusion tries to make a connection between traditional truck buyers and EV customers. However, I talk with truck consumers on a regular basis through my YouTube channel, comments on the website and social media, and that’s just not the case. Sure, there are a handful of electric truck buyers who put their name on any electric-truck reservation. However, read the first half of that statement. And think about it. More than half of EV reservation holders have TWO reservations in. That tells me these are EV customers not traditional truck buyers.

I routinely see the same thing on our YouTube channel and website. Comments on EV posts and videos are either current EV owners praising a new model coming out or EV haters making fun of the new technology. Neither is going to help the electric truck market.

What the electric-truck market really needs!

The reality is the electric truck market will never reach mass adoption if current EV owners simply trade their vehicles in for new ones, and it won’t grow with people having dual reservations. What that market needs is new customers to buy into the technology, and, frankly, they need the traditional truck buyers to be that group.

Without traditional truck buyers wanting an electric truck, it is hard to see that market taking off. Currently, EV ownership makes up single digits of all sales; meanwhile the truck and SUV market has never been hotter. It seems with each new EV launched, consumers buy two to three times as many gasoline engines.

Consider the Ford Mach-E and the Maverick. These vehicles came out about the same time period as new vehicles. Last month, Ford sold 2,349 Mach-E vehicles and proclaimed its electric vehicle sales “grew 36% faster than the segment overall in 2021, while achieving new sales records for the month of December and all of 2021.”

That sounds amazing, right? However, the Maverick sold 6,030 vehicles, and Ford just announced it has stopped taking orders on, wait for it, the Maverick due to demand.

The headline from the press release reinforces this focus on EVs with “Ford Best-Selling Automaker in Q4; Becomes No. 2 for Electric Vehicle Sales for 2021; F-Series Best-Selling Truck for 45th Year In Row and Best-Selling Vehicle for 40th straight year; SUV Share Expands.”

Nothing about the overwhelming demand for the Maverick.

I have to wonder, if the political landscape was different, would the headline from Ford have been more about how well the Maverick was selling?

It seems like Stellantis CEO Carlos Tavares might have hit the nail on the head with this quote from European newspapers: “What is clear is that electrification is a technology chosen by politicians, not by industry.”

The bottom line on electric trucks

The Ford Mach-E is a solid SUV, and it deserves the acclaim it is getting. It is just so odd it is getting so much more play in the media when the sales don’t back it up.

And before I get hate mail (or comments), I do believe some sort of electrification is the future of all automobiles. I just believe the pure electric-truck market could be in trouble without buy in from traditional truck owners. If it’s only current EV consumers with reservations, electric trucks are doomed to stay a niche offering for years to come.

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Tim Esterdahl

Automotive Journalist Tim Esterdahl has been a lover of trucks and SUVs for years. He has covered the industry since 2011 and has pieces in many national magazines and newspapers. In his spare time, he is often found tinkering on his '62 C10 pickup, playing golf, going hunting and hanging out with his wife and kids in Nebraska.

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3 Comments

  1. Jimmy Dinsmore January 28, 2022

    As far as brand loyalty goes those people are loyal to ICE versions of that brand’s pickup. The only real brand loyal types in the EV world are the Teslarati who are almost cult-like. EV trucks will have to draw in the younger people who don’t seem brand loyal at all. These are the 20 somethings. That’s where the buyers will come from.

    Reply
  2. David Holzman January 28, 2022

    Tim your logic makes sense to me. Both intellectually and at the gut level.

    Reply
  3. Whit February 5, 2022

    No hate mail from me! As a geek, I’m fascinated by the technology. However, as a consumer and a vehicle driver, I will not buy an electric vehicle. EVs do not fit my needs nor my lifestyle. For some, they are a good fit. But for those who have to drive long distances or have a vehicle ready to go at a moment’s notice, they just don’t work for us.

    Instead of politicians forcing EV adoption, let people make their own choice based upon their needs and lifestyle!

    Reply

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