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Electric pickups are coming, but does anyone really want them?

Mark Phelan, Detroit Free Press on

Published in Automotive News

There's little evidence that consumers are clamoring for battery-powered pickups, but the auto industry and investment communities can't stop talking about them.

Just this year Amazon and Ford have led investments topping $1.2 billion in Plymouth-based electric vehicle startup Rivian. Rivian's EV pickup program also led to a technology sharing deal with Ford.

"Rivian and Ford match up strategically," said Ford CEO Jim Hackett in April. "We can learn a lot from each other."

The match is viewed by many analysts as a coup because the company headquartered in Plymouth rebuffed a restrictive arrangement with General Motors, according to Bloomberg. Rivian is a rising darling of the tech and automotive industries as vehicle manufacturers shift toward electrification and consider electric pickups.

GM and Ford are racing to sell their own electric pickups. Tesla has promised one, too, in keeping with the EV specialist's record of promising everything except consistent profits.

GM CEO Mary Barra hasn't shared details about the planned pickup, but she said that GM "will not cede our leadership" in the pickup segment, spurring much speculation about what GM is building and when it will reach consumers.

 

That's a lot of action for a type of vehicle whose track record so far consists of the short-lived Ford Ranger, a 1998-2002 compact pickup with electric systems so basic you couldn't sell a lawn mower with them today.

People who buy pickups don't seem to be demanding EVs, so why the rush?

"Who wants them?" IHS Markit analyst Stephanie Brinley asked. "Lifestyle and luxury pickup buyers still want their trucks to be able to do pickup stuff," like off-roading, and long-haul towing four-horse trailers and fifth-wheel campers all day. "An EV pickup still needs to perform."

Whether from fear of missing out, covering all bases or keeping options open, automakers developing EVs can't resist pickups. Mid- and full-size pickups are the biggest part of the U.S. vehicle market.

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