DETROIT — Ford Motor Co. confirmed plans to build a fully electric F-Series pickup, which industry observers called an unexpected move that protects the truck franchise against Tesla and other competitors.
“We’re going to be electrifying the F-Series — battery electric and hybrid,” Jim Farley, Ford president of global markets, said this week during a presentation at the Deutsche Bank Global Automotive Conference in the MGM Grand in Detroit.
In framing the company’s redesign, Farley said a move toward all-electric and hybrid would “futureproof” the billion-dollar F-Series franchise, which he called a “global juggernaut.”
John McElroy, a longtime industry observer and host of “Autoline This Week,” said, “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.”
Creating an alternative to the combustion engine is crucial if Ford plans to protect its pickup franchise.
“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,” McElroy said. “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.”
Can’t ignore competition
Even if a company can’t make money on electric vehicles initially, a truck leader like Ford cannot ignore potential competitors in a segment driven by the government requirements in California, China and elsewhere, he said.
A “battery electric” vehicle means one with no internal combustion engine and no emissions.
Michelle Krebs, executive analyst for Autotrader, said she is looking forward to more detail.
“They’ve said they’re going to electrify all their sport utility vehicles and F-150,” she said. “And they’ve said that’s a hedge against higher gas prices.”
During this busy week of Detroit auto show activity, carmakers typically participate in panels and financial presentations in addition to unveiling new vehicles. Remarks from Ford on Wednesday were accompanied by a big-screen display and analyst discussion.
Farley was preceded by CEO Jim Hackett and followed by CFO Bob Shanks.
The car executives noted that they’re crushing the competition in the highly lucrative truck segment.
“Ninety-percent of our capital now is allocated toward trucks and utilities,” Farley said. “We have the F-Series, the world and America’s best-selling truck. More than a million units were sold last year. F-Series core strength at the end of the day is: There’s a truck for every customer and we know those customers really, really well. From the F-150 all the way to the F-750. They all matter to us.”
He continued, “The best is going to get even better. We’re going to be launching a new Super Duty later this year and showing it to everyone in a few weeks.”
$70 billion a year
If Ford’s truck and van business broke away, they alone would be a Fortune 40 company with more than $70 billion in annual revenue. “That’s a tremendous global business,” Farley said.
And despite all-new pickups from Ram and Chevrolet Silverado, the F-Series continues to hold and grow its lead as the best-selling truck for the past four decades.
“Our F-150 still delivers the best fuel economy, towing and payload even with brand new competitors,” Farley said, attributing the product strength to its technology and efficiency investments.
“We plan to continue to serve these loyal customers with our upcoming next generation of 150,” he said. “We recently market-tested this new truck against the new competition — Ram and Silverado and GM products — and we won hands down. It’s a highly profitable and iconic vehicle for us and it’s going to get even better.”
He added: “The F-Series is second to none. … When you think about Ford, we have a dominant truck franchise globally.”
An all-electric strategy is a big part of plans outlined by Volkswagen this week during the North American International Auto Show. In discussions about a commercial truck and medium size pickup alliance, Ford and VW said talks continue on collaboration involving electric and driverless vehicles.