Ford F-150 Lightning Production To Resume, Morgan Stanley Pooh-Poohs Tesla Cybertruck

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In February, a Ford F-150 Lightning parked in a holding lot on company property caught fire. Ford immediately halted production at the Rouge Electric Vehicle Center where the F-150 Lighting is assembled and issued a stop shipment order until the cause of the battery fire was identified.

The Detroit Bureau said at the time that Ford was “holding (both production and shipment) of vehicles” while it investigates the issue. Although, sales are still open, and no action is being taken for any of the Lightnings that have already been delivered, as Ford said it was “not aware of any incidences of this issue in the field.”

The battery issue was found “in a pre-delivery quality check,” according to the company. Ford spokesperson Emma Bergg said, “We believe we have identified the root cause of this issue. By the end of next week, we expect to conclude our investigation and apply what we learn to the truck’s battery production process; this could take a few weeks.” According to the Wall Street Journal, Ford says, “We have no reason to believe F-150 Lightnings already in customers’ hands are affected by this issue.”

Ford F-150 Lightning

Now Reuters is reporting that Ford is on track to resume production of F-150 Lightning pickup trucks on Monday and is recalling 18 of them due to a battery cell manufacturing defect. The recall announced on Friday related to production over a four-week period that began at the end of last year. Ford said it had recently established “that 18 vehicles containing cells from that four-week period had made it to dealers and customers.”

Ford said it will replace the battery packs in those 18 vehicles but said it is not aware of any fires or any injuries related to the recall. One truck caught fire in a holding lot in Dearborn, Michigan, on February 4 and spread to two other trucks parked nearby. The company halted production the next day.

The announcement last Friday  said “the root cause identified was related to battery cell production at the SK On plant in Georgia.” It went on to say a joint investigation involving Ford and SK On had “confirmed the root causes” and the two companies have “implemented quality actions.” Ford said Friday it still has not set a date for resuming deliveries but said production is on track to resume Monday with a “clean stock of battery packs.”

Ford clearly learned from the Chevy Bolt battery fire fiasco of 2021, which took many months to resolve and involved instructions to park the cars outside and limit charging to 90% or less. It was a black eye for Chevrolet and LG Chem (now called LG Energy Solution), one that Ford seeks to avoid. The F-150 Lightning is an important part of its transition to electric vehicles and it cannot afford any mistakes.

It seems Ford and SK On have identified the issue and taken appropriate steps to resolve the problem before any damage to the reputation of the F-150 Lightning could occur. Good for Ford for being proactive and forthright about getting out ahead of this issue and getting production restarted in such a short period of time.

Morgan Stanley Has Second Thoughts about the Tesla Cybertruck

Tesla Cybertruck
Tesla Cybertruck.

The Tesla Cybertruck is a polarizing design. It truly is a “love it or hate it” proposition that seems to have sprung full blown from the brow of Elon Musk after watching a re-run of the sci-fi classic Blade Runner. Despite some negative feedback, Tesla says it isn’t worried and has already booked more than 1.6 million pre-orders for the vehicle, which looks nothing like any pickup truck ever manufactured before. If all of those pre-orders turn into sales, Tesla will be manufacturing hundreds of thousands of Cybertrucks for years to come.

The company says it will begin limited production of the truck later this year. From the latest reports, it has considered a number of different batteries for the Cybertruck but is now committed to using the 4680 large format battery cells it invented. It reportedly is facing technical issues getting those cells into volume production, which may explain why Tesla’s electric pickup truck has been delayed up until this point.

Unnamed sources are telling Reuters the first-generation 4680 cells built in Fremont have yet to achieve the goal Tesla has set for energy density. To date, the process to dry coat the anodes is on track, but the company is still having issues with dry coating the cathode, which is where the most significant gains are expected to be made.

According to the latest reports, Tesla has enlisted the aid of two Chinese companies, Ningbo Ronbay New Energy and Suzhou Dongshan Precision Manufacturing, to help trim materials costs as it ramps up production of 4680 battery cells in the United States. It has also signed a deal with Korea’s L&F Co to supply high-nickel cathodes that could increase the energy density of its 4680 cells, one of the sources said. Tesla plans to use a cathode with more than 90 percent nickel in the next generation of 4680 cells, two sources told Reuters.

Morgan Stanley has been a staunch supporter of Tesla over the years, but it said this week it has some doubts about how much demand there will be for the Cybertruck. According to Autoblog, the financial services company said recently the electric pickup “will more likely be an enthusiast/cult car with far more limited volume.” It estimates Tesla will sell around 50,000 units per year. “We feel the Cybertruck carries more value in a cultural/zeitgeist sense than in a direct economic sense. At the same time, we encourage our readers to ask themselves: how many Cybertrucks can roll up to a parent-teacher conference or youth soccer match at the same time before losing some of that indescribable … something?”

Ouch. That’s harsh, but is it inaccurate? Around the tapas bar at CleanTechnica global headquarters, the debate over the Cybertruck has been raging for years. Zachary Shahan, the exalted grand poohbah of all things Tesla, thinks the Cybertruck may lead to a revolution in the pickup truck segment away from the traditional trucks the Big Three (plus Toyota) are cranking out by the millions today. Others around the executive champagne waterfall are less confident of that.

Truck buyers are fiercely loyal to their favorite brand and they clearly like what has become the norm in the way a pickup truck is supposed to look. It starts with a high prow that could be the front of a WWII landing craft, then moves back to full four-door cab with seating for 5, followed be a cargo box of around 5.5 feet. The Cybertruck eschews any of those design cues. Musk seems blissfully unconcerned about the polarizing style of his creation, but pickup truck buyers are about as set in their ways as Harley-Davidson owners.

Will the Cybertruck be a smashing sales success or an orphan lost among the flotilla of conventional pickup trucks on the road? That is the $64,000 question that no one has an answer for at this moment. Time will tell.

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Steve Hanley

Steve writes about the interface between technology and sustainability from his home in Florida or anywhere else The Force may lead him. He is proud to be "woke" and doesn't really give a damn why the glass broke. He believes passionately in what Socrates said 3000 years ago: "The secret to change is to focus all of your energy not on fighting the old but on building the new."

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