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Ford is ramping up manufacturing of F-150 Lightning electric pickup trucks to meet demand

Ford Motor began regular manufacturing of its F-150 Lightning electric pickup truck on Tuesday, the most prominent emblem of the 119-year-old company’s drive to retool for a new century.

Ford employees, senior executives and a group of F-150 Lightning customers joined in a celebration at Ford’s Rouge Electric Vehicle Center in Dearborn, Michigan, marking the assembly system’s strong acceleration. Ford has been building Lightnings for several weeks, parking them in lots around its Dearborn headquarters.

The automaker had planned to build just 40,000 Lightning trucks a year, but growing demand for electric vehicles has prompted Ford to increase planned production twice since last August. It prepared a new part of its Rouge manufacturing complex to build 150,000 heavily modified versions of its best-selling F-150 pickup truck each year.

With a dig at Tesla’s competitors at General Motors, CEO Jim Farley said the Lightning will cost “thousands of dollars less than our competitors’ trucks – every time they go on sale.”

About 200,000 customers made reservations for the Lightning before Ford stopped taking preliminary orders in December.

Farley said the Lightning will hit showrooms “in a few days.” That would be behind startup Rivian’s R1T electric pickup, but well ahead of GM’s electric Silverado, Stellantis NV’s promised electric Ram truck and Tesla’s Cybertruck, which has been delayed until next year at the latest. early.

Ford will eventually build Lightning trucks at an electric vehicle production complex in Tennessee that will open in 2025 and will be much larger than its Rouge plant expansion.

Competitors GM and Ford are pursuing different strategies in the electric pickup truck market. Ford redesigned its current F-150 to fit batteries, a front cargo trunk and enough electrical outlets to power a home or construction site. It took 19 months to build an assembly line adjacent to Rouge’s existing F-Series plant.

GM spent more time designing its electric Silverado from the wheels up, gutted a factory in Detroit to build it and several other electric vehicles, and built new factories to supply those vehicles with GM-designed batteries.

Chevrolet will launch a version of the electric Silverado for commercial and professional customers in the spring of 2023, followed by consumer models in the fall.

Executive Chairman Bill Ford told reporters after the event that he continues to urge the Biden administration and Congress to bolster federal support for electric vehicle sales as well as U.S. production of batteries and battery minerals.

“Are we going to make sure there’s an American supply base” for electric vehicle batteries, asked Ford, great-grandson of company founder Henry Ford.

He said the automaker plans to invest directly in the production of battery materials. He also said supply chain issues have hampered the business much like a hard defensive line stops a football team’s momentum.

“We haven’t had an open field race in two years,” he said.

© Thomson Reuters 2022


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