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Auto review: Ford F-150 Lightning EV pickup trickles out to dealers. Rivian should be nervous

Robert Channick, Chicago Tribune on

Published in Automotive News

The most popular vehicle in the U.S. is going electric, and it’s coming to dealers across the country.

The first demo models of the Ford F-150 Lightning, an electric version of the best-selling pickup truck, have begun trickling out to dealerships, and a few vehicles have been delivered to the first customers on a very long waiting list.

Starting at $40,000, the F-150 Lightning may steal some thunder from Rivian, the EV truck manufacturer that stumbled out of the gate with a slow production ramp-up. More broadly, the Lightning is being heralded as a potential game-changer for electric vehicles, incorporating the nascent technology into a utilitarian truck that can haul cargo and rival the speed of a Porsche.

“It’s just as capable as our current trucks, and it’s the fastest F-150 we’ve ever made,” said Jasen Turnbull, F-150 Lightning marketing manager at Ford. “This is huge for us.”

The Lightning launched production in April at the Rouge EV center in Dearborn, Michigan, and job one for Ford is fulfilling preorders for the truck. Ford cut off online reservations in December after receiving nearly 200,000 preorders. The automaker plans to increase annual production to 150,000 vehicles by next year.

The Lightning’s $40,000 starting price is the same as the comparable commercial gas-powered F-150, with premium versions costing upward of $90,000. The price is offset by a $7,500 federal tax credit for electric vehicles, and many states provide their own incentives. Illinois buyers, for example, are eligible to apply for a $4,000 state EV rebate beginning in July through the Climate and Equitable Jobs Act, signed into law by Gov. J.B. Pritzker in September.

 

Production lagging

EV sales, which made up 2.6% of the U.S. auto market in 2021, are projected to nearly double this year to a 5% market share, according to Jessica Caldwell, executive director of insights for car shopping website Edmunds. Demand has been boosted by spiking gas prices, but lagging production makes it hard to gauge how fast EV adoption will progress, she said.

“We definitely see people shopping more electric vehicles,” Caldwell said. “The thing with EVs is that you really can’t get your hands on a lot of them.”

Caldwell said supply chain issues, including the global semiconductor shortage, may continue to roil auto production into next year. But as automakers prioritize the transition to electric vehicles, production may accelerate at EV plants, she said.

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