Ford F-150 Lightning — a gamechanger from the Blue Oval brand?
Updated: Mar 21
Funny enough, just by chance, I had the opportunity to see President Biden and his motorcade pass by my home in Southwest Michigan for the first time in February of this year, shortly after his inauguration. As a car geek, it was too hard to resist to watch the legendary Cadillac “Beast” vehicles roar by, as well as the modified F-350 Super Duty “Roadrunner” vehicle (listen to its diesel V-8 whine as it floors it at minute 0:40 on this video I took here). That trip’s purpose was to visit the Pfizer Global Supply plant and commend its employees on the monumental task of producing COVID-19 vaccines for distribution throughout the United States.
So for any U.S president to visit Michigan, it must really take a situation of importance to warrant the trip, which only underscores just how significant Ford’s announcement of the F-150 Lightning truck was to the company and the entire utility-vehicle consumer base of America. Because as many a social media viewer saw, President Biden returned to the Great Lake State on Tuesday, May 18, and took the opportunity to personally test drive the vehicle at the Ford Motor Company Dearborn Truck Plant (formerly known as the Ford River Rouge Complex) — and also pitch his $2.3 trillion infrastructure plan that includes an incentive to purchase electric vehicles.
Indeed, the announcement two Wednesday’s ago was a big deal for many more reasons. First, the Ford F-150 truck is an American icon that loudly touts its status as “America’s truck,” the truck that “sets the bar,” and being “Built Ford Tough;” watch any commercial and you’ll vividly remember these specific talking points. For an eye-popping 39 years in a row, the Ford F-Series trucks were America’s best-selling vehicle, and also the entire industry’s top-selling truck for a 44th consecutive year — and this was with coronavirus factored in. In fact, with an introduction in 1948, the series holds the crown of being the most popular vehicle in history. The electrification of a segment of such a sales behemoth should be consequential. In addition, the price was certainly a surprise. The company stated that the truck would have a starting price of $39,974, putting it squarely in the range of the common consumer. Compare this with General Motors’ recent and much-hyped offering of the Hummer EV at a starting price of around $80,000; the price of the Lightning is enough to surprise me.
But wait — there’s more. According to research firm IHS Markit, “buyers of a base-model F-150 Lightning could qualify for a $7,500 federal tax credit that would push the price into the low $30,000s, similar to that of a gasoline-fueled truck. That price should help entice buyers who might hesitate to buy a plug-in truck.”
To this day, price is the number one barrier to full electrification of vehicles. Tesla’s flagship Model S sedan, undoubtedly the first electric vehicle to truly become mainstream, was unveiled in 2009 at a MSRP of $57,400, without tax credits nor inflation factored in. Of course, it was only until 2017 that the Model 3 was released with a base price of around $39,000, where it hovers near today. A Toyota Camry or Honda Accord would naturally be a better choice for millions of new graduates, middle-aged and environmentally-conscious commuters going to a white-collar job, and so forth.
So how does this play into the truck segment? A price in the “low $30,000s” as suggested would be the number one factor, in my opinion, of the Lightning’s success. The Tesla Cybertruck, no longer eligible for federal tax credits, starts at $39,000. But truly, comparison should not be to other EV trucks, or even EVs, for that matter, but rather towards current internal-combustion trucks of Ford’s own lineup. The lowest-priced gas trucks in the current F-Series lineup with two-row seating, the F-150 XL in the SuperCab and SuperCrew®️ configurations, start at $33,025 and $36,650, respectively, for the 2021 model year according to Ford’s vehicle configurator website. The Lightning acting as a base model would be gamechanging.
And what about public sentiment? As a business major, I couldn’t help but notice that investors felt good and raised the company’s stock to a price that was about 6.73% higher than pre-announcement, as of the close of the trading day on the Friday of the week of the announcement. This is coming from a market that dumped Nikola back in the summer and fall of 2020 once revelations of issues in the company and its Badger truck leaked out.
Let’s end with the specs: A target range of 230 to 300 miles is in line with competitors. Size-wise, Car and Driver states that the sole cab option of SuperCrew®️ is an inch longer and 1.7 in taller than a similar gas F-150 as well as wheelbase and width remaining nearly identical. Bed volume is 52.8 cu-ft. Overall, “truck capabilities” will be similar to comparable gas trucks of its stature. In fact, the interior is quite similar as its precedents as well, minus the newly-available “frunk.” Power, coming from two lithium-ion battery packs supplying four-wheel drive and an estimated 775 lb-ft of torque, starts at 426 hp and 563 horses on the higher end — already more than a 3.5-liter EcoBoost V-6, and quite impressive numbers. The 0-60 time absolutely pulls, literally, at around 4.5 seconds. For comparison, the high-end 2020 Ford F-150 Raptor takes a full 5.5 seconds to complete the same sprint, while the Tesla Cybertruck takes less than 6.5 seconds according to the official Tesla website. And according to Zeroto60Times, the Lightning is even as fast or faster to 60 mph than the following luxury and sports sedans and coupes: the 2011 Aston Martin DB9, 2015 Audi S3, 2015 Bentley Mulsanne Speed, 2019 Porsche 718 Boxster (in manual), and 1994 Lamborghini Diablo VT, among other cars. For the suburban dad that takes the truck out to the mall just as frequently as the campground, this spec will be a source of fun.
In just a few years, Ford will find itself fending off others seeking to capitalize on the advent of EVs to the side of America — blue collar workers, contractors, and families in between living in between the spectrum of rural and suburban — that rejects for either practical or personal reasons the kind of Tesla utopia that a state like California has become (the vehicles are everywhere). General Motors has immediate plans for the 2023 model year for a full-electric Chevrolet Silverado pickup truck, which will most likely be the Lightning’s closest competitor, especially if GM is able to pull a pricing, performance, and design gimmick like its Blue Oval rival. Though companies like Rivian, Nikola, and Lordstown have plans as well for EV trucks, time will only tell if they take significant market share away from the type of no-frills, down-to-earth American buyer that flocks to trucks like the F-150, Silverado, and Ram 1500, given the more pricey competitors.
So thus, it seems that the company headquartered in the “Glass House” has a path to consolidate control in the near future if the Lightning has no issues on the road. 44,500 pre-orders for the vehicle in 48 hours is proof. But time will tell.