Ford Sells the Most Popular Pickups but Doesn’t Plan to Dominate Electrics
The company seems ambivalent about its coming electric F-150
For 44 consecutive years, the Ford F-150 has been the bestselling pickup in the U.S. For 39 years, it’s been the most popular vehicle of any type. In the middle of next year, Ford says it will release a pure electric version of the truck, and the question then is whether the F-150, and not Tesla, Rivian, Hummer, or anyone else, is in the leading position to dominate the electric pickup.
This is not a trivial matter. Large vehicles — SUVs and pickups — are by far the biggest sellers and profit generators for the industry around the world. The F-150 alone, with $42 billion in sales in 2019, accounted for 27% of all of Ford’s revenue for the year. The two vehicle categories — SUVs and pickups — are likely to be the biggest EV sellers, too. Thus, they are key to who emerges atop the EV race. More pertinent, if EVs end up dominating vehicle sales of all types over the next two decades and beyond, as numerous analysts expect, whoever captures the public’s imagination in electric SUVs, pickups, or both are likely to be among the world’s largest automakers.
As of now, however, the picture is of an ambivalent Ford. I asked Mike Levine, a senior Ford executive in charge of EV communications for North America, how Ford intends to make the F-150 the #1 electric pickup, and the impression is that the company has no such ambition. Instead, Ford intends to keep the pickup on top by marketing numerous versions of it — a combustion version, a hybrid, a pure electric, and so on. The electric will simply be one of many. Ford’s thesis is that the core buyer of a pickup is looking for utility — a vehicle that can tow something, go off-road, or lug stuff in the back — and not the flash of some other coming EV pickups. “The key to winning is providing different trucks for different customers,” Levine said.
That is a very different bet from GM, which as I have written, is putting much weight behind the launch of its all-electric Hummer next year. Also coming next year is the Tesla CyberTruck and the Rivian R1T.
The F-150’s battery will take the truck “300 miles plus,” Levine said. But GM, Tesla, and other EV automakers are…