Auto experts say the electric F-150, known as the Lightning, must be successful if Ford is to improve in the age of the electric car. Now launching the truck is the equivalent of “betting with the company,” said William C. Ford Jr., the company’s executive chairman, who is Henry Ford’s great-grandson. “If this launch doesn’t go well, we could tarnish the whole franchise.”
A critical year for electric vehicles
The popularity of battery-powered cars is growing worldwide, and even the overall auto market has stagnated.
The company has collected about 200,000 reservations for the trucks, but it could still stumble. Production may slow down due to global chip deficit or rising cost of lithium, nickel and other raw materials important for batteries. The software that Ford developed for the truck could be flawed, a problem that hampered sales of a new electric Volkswagen in 2020.
Ford and Mr. Farley are going to do some things for them. Unlike many other electric cars, the F-150 Lightning is relatively affordable – it starts at $ 40,000. Tesla’s cheapest car is the Compact Model 3 sedan, which costs more than $ 48,000. The Lightning has plenty of storage, including a huge front trunk, which is attractive to families and businesses, including a large truck fleet. And it helps that Tesla will not start building its cybertruck until next year.
And Ford already has the Mustang Mach-E, an electric sport utility vehicle, in the EV game. It sold more than 27,000 units in 2021, its first year on the market, and won favorable reviews.
Production of the F-150 Lightning is scheduled to begin next Monday. Competing models from General Motors, Stellantis and Toyota – Ford’s main competitors in pickups – are at least a year away. Rivian, a new manufacturer that Ford has invested in, has started selling an electric truck but is struggling to increase production.
“If the Lightning launch is good, we have a huge opportunity,” Mr Ford said.
In many ways, Mr. Farley checks most of the box when it comes to leading a major U.S. automaker. Mary T., CEO of GM. Like Barr, whose father worked on the Pontiac assembly line, Mr. Furley has family roots in the industry: his grandfather worked in a Ford factory. While meeting with his grandfather, he will visit the Ford plant and other important sites in the company’s history. At age 15, he bought a Mustang while working in California one summer and drove it home to Michigan without a license. His grandfather nicknamed him “Jimmy Carr-Carr”.
But like Mr. Musk, a South African who was the founder of PayPal and other companies, Mr. Farley has a varied career and has been involved in business creation. Born in Argentina when his father was working as a banker there, Mr. Farley, 59, also lived in Brazil and Canada when he grew up. His career began in IBM, not in the auto industry. He has spent a long stretch at Toyota. He helped the Japanese automaker overcome his reputation for making boring and profitable cars by working in his new Lexus luxury brand, now a powerhouse.