Speaking to the press at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit this week, Jim Farley, Ford’s president of global markets, said, “Here’s what’s going to happen next to future-proof that global juggernaut of commercial vehicles. We’re going to be electrifying the F-Series, both battery-electric and hybrid. And we’re doing the same for Transit. No transition is perfect. In a way, we had the advantage of watching what happened the first time around. (Customers) want really good stuff,” he added in an obvious reference to Tesla and Elon Musk.
According to the Detroit News, the company offered few details about the battery electric F-150. Ford has announced previously that it plans to introduce a hybrid version of its best selling pickup truck in 2020. That vehicle will be built at the Rouge Complex in Dearborn. Ford spokesperson Mike Levine confirmed the plan to build a battery electric pickup and said it will be part of Ford’s plan to build a better truck for its customers.
Ford CEO Jim Hackett acknowledged his company has been slow off the marks when it comes to electric vehicles. “We were late,” he said. “Now we think we’re going to be a leader in this.” CleanTechnica readers may be skeptical of that claim, but Ford says it will invest $11 billion in coming years in EV technology and plans to introduce 16 battery electric vehicles and 24 plug-in hybrids over the next several years.
John McElroy, host of Autoline This Week, tells the Detroit Free Press, “When he says ‘battery electric,’ what I’m taking that to mean is a battery electric vehicle. Pure electric. They’ve said they would have a hybrid plug-in version of the F-150. But this is different than what they’ve talked about in the past. Tesla is talking about coming out with an electric pickup and look what Tesla has done in the luxury segment. They’ve clobbered just about everybody.”
“You can’t pooh-pooh that people won’t be interested in an electric pickup,” he adds. “Rivian Automotive is coming out with an all-electric pickup. These are the crown jewels for Ford Motor Co., the F-Series. Ford has got to react to competitive threats.”
Ford trucks are a really, really important part of the company’s business. At $70 billion a year in sales, if the truck operation were split off from the parent corporation, it would be a Fortune 40 company. “Ninety percent of our capital now is allocated toward trucks and utilities,” Farley said.
“We have the F-Series, the world and America’s best-selling truck. More than a million units were sold last year. F-Series core strength at the end of the day is: There’s a truck for every customer and we know those customers really, really well. From the F-150 all the way to the F-750. They all matter to us. The F-Series is second to none. When you think about Ford, we have a dominant truck franchise globally.”
Even though details are sketchy and timelines for electric pickup trucks hazy, the one thing that matters about what Ford execs had to say in Detroit this week is that the electric transportation revolution spearheaded by Elon Musk and Tesla is moving forward and gathering speed. When legacy automakers like Ford start drinking the Kool Aid and planning electric vehicles of their own, it’s only a matter of time before the changeover to electricity is complete.