During a presentation at the Deutsche Bank Global Automotive Conference in the MGM Grand in Detroit, Jim Farley, Ford’s president of global markets, made a blockbuster announcement. After more than 40 years in the market, and amidst the impending arrival of vehicles like the Tesla pickup truck and the quad-motor Rivian R1T, the beloved Ford F-150 is going electric.
“We’re going to be electrifying the F-Series — battery electric and hybrid,” Farley said.
The Ford executive later noted that the company’s decision to move the F-Series franchise to all-electric and hybrid power is a way for the automaker to “future-proof” its most successful and lucrative vehicles. Farley dubbed the F-Series franchise as a “global juggernaut,” a statement that carries no exaggeration considering that the F-150 has been one of America’s best-selling pickup trucks for decades.
Needless to say, Ford’s announcement surprised some of Detroit’s veterans. The F-150, after all, is pretty much the quintessential symbol of fossil fuel-powered workhorse. John McElroy, a longtime auto industry observer and the host of Autoline This Week, noted to the Detroit Free Press that Ford’s announcement represents an apparent change in the legacy carmaker’s strategies.
“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,” McElroy said.
The Autoline host added that an electric F-150 provides some protection for Ford, considering that players in the electric car market are starting to take an interest in the segment. Tesla CEO Elon Musk, for one, has openly stated that he is looking forward to building a pickup truck. Last November, Rivian Automotive also took the wraps off its R1T pickup truck, a refined, production-ready vehicle that provides a balance between ruggedness and luxury. For McElroy, the entrance of these vehicles presents a legitimate threat to Ford’s most lucrative business.
Ford faces stiff competition from automakers like Rivian as it looks to adapt its 100-year old business to an industry that’s shifting toward electric mobility
“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. 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,” the Autoline host said.
Looking at the specs of the competition, McElroy’s statement does ring true. The Rivian R1T, for one, is a powerhouse, equipped with four electric motors and a 180 kWh battery pack that gives more than 400 miles of range per charge. Thanks to its all-electric design, the R1T is a champion of utility as well, with numerous storage spaces that competitors would be challenged to match.
Tesla, on the other hand, has not revealed any official details about its pickup truck, though Elon Musk has stated that the vehicle would be so loaded with tech, it would not be out of place in the Blade Runner franchise. Musk has also teased some features for Tesla’s pickup truck, such as four-wheel steering and the capability to tow up to 300,000 pounds.
That said, credit must be given to Ford for seeing the writing on the wall. The auto industry is transitioning away from fossil fuel-powered transportation. Headed by vehicles like the Tesla Model 3, electric cars are starting to become mainstream. If Ford wants to thrive in this transition, offering an electric version of its most successful vehicle definitely seems to be the correct strategy.
With this update from Ford, it is not too difficult to imagine Tesla CEO Elon Musk feeling some form of gratification. Musk, after all, has made it a point to state that Tesla’s purpose is to accelerate the world’s transition to sustainable energy. In this sense, Ford’s upcoming all-electric F-150 pickup truck is actually a pretty big step towards Tesla’s overall goal.