Bloomberg — As the top-selling model line in the U.S. for 40 years, Ford Motor Co.’s F-Series pickups hold special weight in the auto ecosystem. The lineup, led by the F-150, generates more than $40 billion in annual revenue. Only one other U.S. product—Apple Inc.’s iPhone—tops F-Series sales.
Given this, Ford’s decision to electrify the F-150 stands as one of the boldest strategic decisions in 21st century business. An electric F-150, more than any other vehicle, will persuade rural America to go green, leading the way for almost every automaker that finds itself challenged by the electric transition.
When now-Chief Executive Officer Jim Farley announced plans in early 2019 to sell an electric version of the F-150 — later called Lightning — he forced the hand of almost every boss in the business. Within months, several rivals—including General Motors, Stellantis, and Tesla—announced a parade of electric trucks and SUVs. “If Ford (F) can pull this off, they’ll move the entire electric vehicle market,” says Dan Albert, automotive historian and author. “This is a cultural moment for America.”
Regardless of how many F-150 Lightnings make it off the lot, the truck arguably already has accelerated the adoption of electric vehicles in both the supply side and the demand side.
“This vehicle is a test for adoption of electric vehicles,” Farley said when the truck was unveiled last May. “We should all watch very carefully how this does.”
28 Years to Net-Zero?
Electrifying cars, especially SUVs and pickups, will help the U.S. reach its goal.
- 2022 First deliveries of the F-150 Lightning are expected in April or May. Ford has 200,000 reservations.
- 2026 Date Ford set to reach annual EV production of 2 million.
- 2030 Goal leading automakers set for 40%-50% of new-vehicle sales to be electric. President Joe Biden’s target is half.
- 2040 Sales of new gas-powered vehicles are set to end as Ford, GM, Mercedes, and others will sell only zero-emission cars.
- 2050 The U.S. government’s goal for economy-wide net-zero emissions.
“We need to accelerate the adoption of these vehicles and consumers need to respond to get us even close to achieving carbon reduction targets,” says Greg Keoleian, director of the University of Michigan’s Center for Sustainable Systems and co-author of a recent emissions study Ford commissioned. “Decarbonization of the auto sector is very critical.”
A Greener Set of Wheels
U.S. greenhouse gas emissions in 2019 totaled 6.6 billion metric tons, with the transportation sector the worst polluter. Sedans, SUVs, and pickups accounted for 1.1 billion metric tons. According to a study from the University of Michigan’s Center for Sustainable Systems commissioned by Ford, over its lifetime, a battery-powered vehicle will cut emissions by:
- 74 metric tons for a pickup
- 56 metric tons for an SUV
- 45 metric tons for a sedan
U.S. sales of new cars and light trucks in 2021 totaled 14.9m up about 3% from 2020, according to Cox Automotive. Of the total, 1.5 million were hybrid, plug-in hybrid, or electric vehicles.
Costs for Lightning owners will be considerably lower than for those owning the F-150. The $39,974 base price (factoring in federal subsidies) is 17% less than that of an entry-level F-150, says Atlas Public Policy.