Ford Has the Most Talked-About Electric Vehicle, But It Can’t Break Up With Combustion
What, should it just give up a $42-billion-a-year golden goose?
America is the country of the pickup truck, and for decades the zenith of American pickup ownership has been the Ford F-150, the most popular vehicle on the road. Whether they have needed one to haul a trailer filled with construction equipment, or to just make a personal statement in the neighborhood, Americans have bought more or less 800,000 F-150s every year. For Ford, this has been a godsend — in 2019, the company earned about $42 billion from its F-series pickups, by far its most reliable revenue center.
So it was that Ford, along with President Biden, Jimmy Fallon, analysts and some journalists kicked up a fuss the last couple of days over the company’s unveiling of its long-promised electric F-150, called the Lightning. Biden floored the vehicle on a spin in Michigan, leading Fallon to plead with the company to send him one of the pickups so he could try it out, too. CEO Jim Farley said 20,000 orders had poured in during the course of just 12 hours, requiring a $100 deposit from each buyer. The New York Times suggested that the Lightning could become a best-selling new Model T for Ford, and Barclays analyst Brian Johnson, in a note to his clients, gushed, “F-150 Lightning is Lit.”
A certain crescendo has been reached in the global electric vehicle and battery race. Just this week, in addition to the F-150 unveil, South Korea’s Kia took over Times Square to trumpet its EV6 crossover SUV. Loath to relinquish the spotlight, Tesla CEO Elon Musk boasted anew about the coming Cybertruck and announced a June 3 coming out for the Model S Plaid, said to go 0 to 60 in under 2 seconds.
The strange thing is that it’s Ford that has gotten people the most worked up recently. Not that the F-150 isn’t impressive — it is, and it also seems clear that a good number of them will be snapped up. The disconnect is that, next to Toyota, Ford is probably more ambivalent about EVs than any major automaker on the planet. It does not seem an exaggeration to say that Ford is being dragged kicking and screaming into what appears to be shaping up as a new age of electric vehicles.