Responding to surprising demand from “handraisers” for the vehicle, Ford Motor made the stunning decision to nearly double production capacity of the all-electric F-150 Lightning pickup truck to 150,000 vehicles a year as the nameplate nears customer deliveries in spring.
The company may have been wary initially of putting America’s best-selling model on an all-electric platform given the success of internal-combustion-engine versions of the F-150 over four decades. But consumer response to the prospect of Lightning has helped vault Ford to the lead among traditional automakers adjusting their lineups for a battery-powered future, along with the strong market for its Ford Mustang Mach-E, and CEO Jim Farley’s recent decision to invest heavily in the company’s own battery-making capacity.
Ford has logged nearly 200,000 reservations for the F-150 Lightning, and has invited the first group of reservation holders to begin placing their orders for the vehicle on Thursday after receiving an e-mail from Ford.
“Our teams are working hard and creatively to break production constraints in order to get more F-150 Lightning trucks into the hands of our customers,” Kumar Galhotra, president of the Americas & International Markets Group for Ford, said in a press release. “The reality is clear: people are ready for an all-electric F-150 and Ford is pulling out all the stops to scale our operations and increase production capacity.”
Ford is building the F-150 Lightning at the Rouge Electric Vehicle Center in Dearborn, Mich., part of the fabled River Rouge complex not far from corporate headquarters, where Henry Ford revolutionized the infant automobile business with the industry’s most extensive vertically integrated manufacturing complex. Ford builds its conventional F-150 there as well.
The actual manufacture of the F-150 Lightning is strikingly different than for conventional vehicles, a recent tour of the Rouge Electric Vehicle Center showed me. Rather than cobbling together each vehicle as it snakes along a conveyor system as in traditional auto plants, each prototype unit of the Lightning skates around the plant as workers assemble the payload box and other components on top of a mechanically simple battery array that underlies the rest of the vehicle.
Ford said that to deliver its newly planned production increase, a small task fore of employees from manufacturing, purchasing, strategy, product development, and capacity planning “are finding ways to quickly adapt and expand production” of the Lightning at the plant, in concert with key internal and external suppliers of electric vehicle parts, including battery cells, battery trays and electric drive systems.
More than 75% of reservation holders for the F-150 Lightning are new to the Ford brand, the company said. Deliveries will begin in spring with a starting suggested retail price of $39,974 before any available tax incentives.