I wrote some very enthusiastic articles about the Ford F-150 Lightning right after its reveal, and also interviewed Ford’s head of electric vehicles about the truck. More recently, I wrote about one potential Achilles heel (though, feedback from readers tells me it may be more of a normal heel than an Achilles heel). Whether it’s an Achilles heel or not, though, I think Ford made the ideal decision with regards to the overall design of the F-150 Lightning, including the frontal area where the giant-mega-uber-duber power frunk lives.
In fact, thinking on it more after letting the enthusiasm from the opening week settle in, I thought it would be good to point out that I think Ford did basically everything right with the F-150 Lightning, and why.
As we roll through these points, I think there’s one important thing to keep in mind: who does Ford need to appeal to? In other words, who are the most important target customers for this vehicle? In my opinion, Ford doesn’t need to go after Tesla buyers, and shouldn’t even bother going after Tesla buyers. Sure, the F-150 Lightning will attract some Tesla fans who prefer it over the Cybertruck (there are some big Tesla fans who just don’t like how the Cybertruck looks), but that’s not who Ford needed to design the F-150 Lightning for. With that in mind, let’s look at what Ford did right, so right.
1. First of all, the critical first step was that Ford decided to electrify the F-150. Everyone knows the F-150, nearly a million people a year buy a brand spankin’ new F-150, and Ford electrifying the F-150 tells people that it’s happy to bring this model into the new electric era and it’s seriously putting its heart and mind into electric powertrains. It’s not creating some newfangled, funky design for an EV it might drop in a year or two. It’s building on its best selling model and improving it much further.
2. Offering variety, serving different core consumer groups, was a splendid move. Not all truck drivers are the same. Ford designed a low-cost F-150 (the biggest surprise of all for me and many others) and also a higher-trim Lightning that has all kinds of bells and whistles while logging the record of quickest F-150 in history, and Ford offers a trim in between those two. Variety is huge for attracting different buyers, and the spread in options seems pretty much ideal here.
3. Keeping the design very similar to a “normal” F-150 was a splendid move. No matter if there’s a range hit from this or not, I think it was important for Ford to keep the F-150 Lightning’s design almost the same as any other new F-150’s design, because the company needs to convert its million or so annual buyers to electricity, and it most effectively does that at this point buy minimizing the shock and the identity changes consumers have to accept.
4. As part of #3, the Mega Power Frunk itself — using the traditional F-150 design to create an amazing storage unit. Even if it does come with some drawbacks (everything does), this might be the vehicle’s #1 feature separating it from everything else on the market. Since writing the article linked above, I’ve seen another picture of the Mega Power Frunk that makes it look even larger and more useful (see below). Someone also pointed out that there seems to be a mini frunk under the main frunk!
Looks like there's a pull tab in the frunk of the F-150 Lightning, a frunk within a frunk! pic.twitter.com/GEiWoTIfrR
— Tesla Owners Club New York State (@TOCNYS) May 27, 2021
Fairly deep, and drain hole too!. pic.twitter.com/IaV0j210Of
— Stephen Pallotta (@stephenpallotta) May 28, 2021
I don’t care how prejudiced against change and electric powertrains you are, when you see that Mega Power Frunk, you’re impressed and attracted to it. You have to be. I won’t make any risqué analogies here … but I’m sure I could.
You buy a pickup truck for the giant cargo capacity (in theory). This enormous frunk provides such a boost in that regard that I can’t see how an F-150 buyer could go truck shopping without seriously considering the Lightning.
5. The range-for-price options offer two very different but very good choices. 230 miles of range is not winning any records at this stage of the EV transition, but from my experience with EV life, it’s far beyond what many people or purposes need. If a buyer is looking to get as low a price as possible without having any range concerns and they don’t drive crazy distances or hours per day, this is a great choice. Many businesses that buy F-150s have quite limited daily miles. They need a truck for certain cargo or work needs, but they aren’t driving cargo up and down the Interstate. An F-150 with 230 miles of range on a full charge surely does the job. Keeping the price below $40,000, or perhaps down to $30,000 with incentives, makes the Lightning practical from a financial sense as well. And then there are the big operational savings from using electricity rather than gas or diesel.
Also, many people/businesses use their pickup truck at places with electricity outlets. It could easily be plugged in — even into a normal 110V outlet — while at many worksites/workplaces. That makes it extra, extra easy to keep the truck charged up without having to even think much about its max range. (As I wrote before, I’ve been keeping my Model 3 Standard Range Plus, which has a max range of 205 miles at this point, charged between 30% and 71% using 110V charging — and I don’t even have to plug in every day. Also, that’s while driving approximately the US average.)
For people who decide they need significantly more range, Ford’s offering the 300 miles version, and that’s still in the price range of a somewhat high-end but still very popular F-150. Ford is not charging a fortune for even the highest trim and is offering enough range for the vast majority of lifestyles.
6. The headlights.
They are cool. Not too dramatic, but definitely noticeable, and menacing to just the right extent.
7. The power tool hookups and vehicle-to-home tech. People who love to use their F-150 as a multi-purpose, flexible vehicle should love the practicality of power hookups for tools or other things and the vehicle-to-home tech that allows you to back up your home or business in the event of a power outage.
Ford, as it has pointed out on multiple occasions, is bringing its best, most versatile, most useful truck ever to market. The company has designed the model to be familiar yet futuristic. Ford has created a pickup truck for people who don’t like dramatic change but do want the next best thing, 2020+ tech, and a more capable truck.
Ford has designed a truck for traditional truck buyers so that they can be walked into the future rather than having three options: midlife-crisis-Blade Runner truck, expensive treehugger truck, or live-in-the-past truck. The F-150 Lightning is not what Tesla needed to bring to market, but it is exactly what Ford needed to design and bring to market. Thank goodness it did! Millions of people will go electric sooner than they would have otherwise thanks to the F-150 Lightning. That’s my forecast, at least.