Ford Motor Co. is officially planting its flag with the launch of an all-electric version of America's best-selling truck, aiming to overtake Tesla Inc. and lead the electric vehicle market.
Blue Oval brass said as much during the F-150 Lightning's formal launch Tuesday at the Rouge Electric Vehicle Center, a new EV manufacturing facility at Ford's historic Rouge complex that already has been expanded to boost production capacity to 150,000 units annually. The event highlighted the symbolic resonance of the Rouge, the employees building the Lightning, customers (some of whom were invited) and the automaker's electric ambitions.
"We have very intention of being the No. 1 electric pickup maker," CEO Jim Farley said. "And then, with the huge investments — $50 billion in EVs, battery manufacturing, our expanded lineup which you have not seen yet — we plan to challenge Tesla and all comers to become the top EV maker in the world.
"That's something that no one would have believed just two years ago from us. Take a look at this truck and believe it."
Lightnings will begin shipping to customers in the next few days, Farley said, starting with the Ford Pro model aimed at commercial customers. That's where the rubber meets the road.
"More and more customers over the next several weeks are going to start getting their Lightnings. And that's going to be the real test of how people really feel about an electric truck," said Sam Abuelsamid, an autos analyst at Guidehouse Insights.
"This is going to be the first really high-volume electric truck," he added. "And because of the segment that this is in — this is the most popular segment in the US market — the response to this vehicle is going to be a great indicator of how the American consumer is going to take to EVs over the coming years."
For Stanton Hunter of New Jersey, the Lightning will be his first pickup truck as well as his first EV. He has a Lightning on order, with a build date scheduled in June, and was among the customers Ford invited to the launch.
"I've always wanted a pickup truck," Hunter said. "But gas mileage was never really agreeing with me. So I decided that this is probably the best time to do it."
Underscoring one possible challenge now facing Ford, though: Hunter initially planned to buy a Bronco SUV, which Ford resurrected last year, but he was so far down the reservation list that he jumped over to the Lightning when orders for the truck opened.