Lightning Finally Strikes Detroit As Ford’s Electric F-150 Starts Rolling Off The Production Line

Morning Dump Lightning

The first Ford F-150 Lightning rolls off the line, Ram flies a kite in a thunderstorm, dealer finance models go opaque. All this on today’s issue of The Morning Dump.

Welcome to The Morning Dump, bite-sized stories corralled into a single article for your morning perusal. If your morning coffee’s working a little too well, pull up a throne and have a gander at the best of the rest of yesterday.

Lightning Strikes

F150 Lightning Rouge Plant
Photo credit: Ford

It’s a big day for workers at Ford’s Rouge plant and Ford F-150 Lightning electric pickup truck reservation holders, as today’s the day Ford’s electric truck officially goes into production. Sure, the GMC Hummer EV may have come first, but I’d argue that the F-150 Lightning is more important as it’s priced and positioned as a work truck rather than as a luxury vehicle.

Now, Ford’s start-of-production announcement comes on the heels of other corporate announcements, so here we go. Since the F-150 Lightning has attracted 200,000 non-fleet reservations, Ford’s investing in expanding capacity at its Rouge Electric Vehicle Center to produce 150,000 of the trucks in 2023, the car company says on its website. That’s an 87.5 percent increase over the center’s current capacity of 80,000 trucks per year. Ford also claims to be on track for a global EV mix of roughly 33 percent by 2026, a massive achievement in the race for EV domination. Perhaps more importantly, the F-150 Lightning will reduce carbon emissions at the more polluting end of the new vehicle spectrum. Electric compact cars are great and all, but they’re a bit like polishing the chrome trim on a rolling shell when we could be throwing a powertrain in the damn thing. Strategic targeting of thirstier vehicle segments is how we get to a cleaner future sooner. I’d imagine the long-term cost savings are pretty good as well.

Regarding the start of F-150 Lightning production, Ford will be doing a special livestream at 1:30 p.m. ET that can be streamed at this link. Given vehicle transit times, it’s fair to assume that early consumers will start taking delivery of their new trucks in the next few weeks, exciting times for the nation’s EV enthusiasts. It’s safe to say that we can’t wait to get our mitts on the Lightning. Ford’s electric pickup truck seems practical, reasonably-priced and quite desirable. Meet the new boss, same as the old boss.

Taunting The Storm

Ram Ev Teaser
Photo credit Ram

Good news, Detroit is still Detroit. Just before the first Ford F-150 Lightning electric half-ton pickup truck was set to roll off the line, cross-town rival Ram swooped in with a big announcement. Apparently we’ll be seeing some form of electric Ram pickup truck this fall, which should add even more hype to the red-hot EV truck wars. Ram released this teaser video that appears to show the lighting signature and front-on silhouette of its upcoming electric pickup truck, and my god are those fenders ever beefy.

Granted, we’re not entirely sure what we’ll be seeing from Ram this fall. All official reports have pegged the electric Ram pickup truck’s arrival date as sometime in 2024, some two years from now. Some outlets like The Detroit News are claiming that we’ll only see a concept version this fall, which is honestly quite possible. Regardless, there are a few things we do know about the new all-electric Ram. Firstly, it’ll ride on Stellantis’ STLA Frame architecture, a large electric vehicle platform that supports battery pack sizes larger than 200 kWh, peak range of 500 miles and a vehicle length of between 5,400 mm (212.6 inches) and 5,900 mm (232.3 inches). Secondly, it’ll be available as an extended-range electric vehicle with an on-board generator to charge the batteries. Finally, the debut configuration of the upcoming electric Ram will be some form of crew cab, as evidenced by earlier Stellantis-issued teaser photos.

Now granted, Ram is a bit late to the EV truck party. GMC Hummer EVs and Rivian R1Ts are already rolling around, the Ford F-150 Lightning is now in production, the Chevrolet Silverado EV is available for reservation with deliveries set to start next fall, and there’s even a very slim chance that the Cybertruck will make it to market before the Ram EV. However, being late to the party isn’t a bad thing. Ram can get a good look at what tech its competitors are wearing, what capabilities said competitors are bringing to the potluck and what over-the-air updates develop, then plan accordingly. There’s still a lot up in the air, but it’s safe to say that the truck wars will get very interesting in 2024.

Sleazy Does It

A Buy Here Pay Here Dealer
Photo credit: “Used car dealer in Miami” by ryantxr is marked with CC BY 2.0.

There’s something about the motor trade that invites a special kind of ill repute. Where else can someone finance an aged, weathered depreciating asset at 28 percent APR for 60 months? Still, at least there’s a level of transparency provided by the National Automobile Dealership Association’s (NADA) average dealership financial profile data. Are dealers raking money in hand-over-fist? Are employees paid enough to make rent and bills? How long is the average financing term? Are a worrying number of subprime customers being turned towards leasing? All good questions that NADA’s average profile report answers. Or should I say answered.

Yes, NADA is now restricting access to its average dealer financial profile data by only allowing certain dealers to view metrics. Alarm bells are ringing, and they’re coming from inside the house. According to Automotive News, Patrick Manzi, NADA’s chief economist, was not part of the discussion regarding restricting data access. Moreover, Manzi said, “I don’t have a good explanation” for why the average dealer financial profile data is now restricted. If you’re thinking that this seems like a bad thing for everyone, you’re probably right. Car dealerships have a long way to go to dispel the sleazy salesperson stereotype, and NADA obfuscating financial information on the coattails of record dealer revenue certainly isn’t helping.

The Flush

Whelp, time to drop the lid on this edition of The Morning Dump. It’s April 26, so I wish all of you a very happy Hemi day. As for my big question of the morning, I’d love to know what cars you constantly find yourself looking for on the online classifieds. I’ve got saved searches for 2007-2008 BMW 750is, 2004-2005 Toyota Echo Hatchbacks and hydropneumatic Citroëns, so I’m probably not right in the head. While the market right now almost keeps me out of the buyer pool, I’m still saving my quarters and not letting the dream die.

Lead photo credit: Ford

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29 Responses

  1. Lately I´ve been looking for old ford classics/legends, well at least they are classics here in Europe, like escort and sierra cosworths, capris, mk1 focus rs…

  2. “Strategic targeting of thirstier vehicle segments is how we get to a cleaner future sooner.”

    Bingo! You want people to drive more EVs? Build EVs in the segments that are selling well. I’m tired of hearing EV proponents whining, “You are doing it wrong, all wrong. Big EVs are bad. Small EVs are good.” They wonder why everyone isn’t lusting after something like a Bolt.

    Nothing necessarily wrong with small EVs, but they will not a good sub for a roomier compact or midsize SUV.

    1. Exactly. Early EV’s were targeted at hippies that wanted to save the planet. That’s not a segment with a lot of disposable income. If you want EV’s to go mainstream, make them look and perform as good as or better than mainstream vehicles. Tesla figured that out way before the legacy auto makers.

  3. With all these EVs coming out, how are we going to recycle the (I think really toxic?) batteries. Did y’all have a cradle-to-grave battery article I missed?

    Re: saved searches… ’68 Charger resto, 991 Targa 4S manual, late ’90s V70R. I can’t really afford these, but I want to track prices and availability.

    1. not sure how viable it ends up (or ended up), but it seemed that used car batteries could be viable for back up power storage for houses/buildings with solar as primary.

  4. I’m getting to the point of needing to update my vehicle. I want to make the switch to hybrid (an electric doesn’t make sense for my current, no pun intended, situation). I’d really like to make a Maverick my new ride, but the mark-ups are hell. Finding a hybrid in my area is even more difficult. Only two have popped up in my searches within 100 miles. I was pretty excited until I saw that they were green stickers, aka customer ordered. It does explain why they weren’t just white, black, or gray and equipped well without being over-equipped.

    1. Your best bet is to wait for orders to open back up. You can find plenty of dealers willing to go MSRP or below on an order, since that increases their sales volume.

    2. Be prepared to pay. That is the market right now. Sucks for sure. As bad as that sounds, buying new is still probably better than a used vehicle. Used are overpriced by a larger margin than new in many cases. Hybrid and EV are an even more hot ring of hell to try to buy in.

          1. Oh hell nah. I just picked a number outta thin air. Point being: unless you’re looking for cheap and old, new is currently a better deal than slightly used or in some cases even regular used.

  5. My saved searches are still from the last hunt for a car for my wife. At this point it’s a matter of pride that 5 months later there still hasn’t been a comparable car advertised for less than we paid, which seemed like far too much at the time.

    For wishful thinking, I like the random that FB Marketplace thinks matches my desires. Today it showed me a 70s F-550 that would be a sweet buy if it’s as good mechanically as reported.

  6. Dump rebuttal: ‘Detroit gonna Detroit’ (in general) feels a lot like “partisanship gonna partisanship”. A bunch of grandstanding noise in cyclical waves to drum up some fanfare from those only interested in the badge… feels very American… but at least the US OEM’s have three dogs in the race instead of just two.. Winning…?

  7. I am always on the lookout for a supercharged Previa, but it looks like there are only 3 base models on sale across the country at any time. So much want for mid engine, supercharged, AWD people carrier.

  8. Saved Searches, the last one is where I get the most enjoyment:
    Porsche 914 parts car
    1966-1978 Ford F series
    2005-2015 Mazda Miata
    2004-2012 Ford Crown Vic

    Anything under $3000 within 1000 miles.

  9. Maybe I’m in the minority here, but I’d say my enjoyment of “automotive tomfoolery” as a hobby has diminished greatly as marginal cars on the fringe have become out of reach for casual tinkering, maybe flipping. Although I’ve noticed cars that I used to seek are becoming increasingly fewer and farther between (affordable XJs, even ZJs, old Japanese pot metal, Swedish steel, etc) and the ones remaining are either NFS or priced so high they might as well be. So, as a result, I’ve given up on this pastime.

    After having owned well over 50 cars from nearly every manufacturer in the last decade and a half, I’ve been priced out by people who legitimately need these vehicles for more than education and amusement. Maybe it’s just as well since I’m getting older and I don’t recover from wrenching sessions as easily as I once did. In the mean time, I still have my JK that’s easy enough to work on.

  10. The Lightning “seems practical, reasonably-priced” unless you wanted the base model with the extended range battery. In that case, it’s really hard to justify bumping up to the XLT with the luxury package just to also pay another 10k for the bigger battery, bringing the total up to about 75k. But the Pro is a pretty good value if you are okay with the respectable 230 mile range, I will admit.
    (I wanted the Pro, but with the extended battery. Was prepared for a 50k price tag, but not willing to go quite so high.)

  11. You mean besides SBSD contenders? Most of my searches are for a mid-’60s tow vehicle for our mid-’60s trailer (a pipe dream for now, but it’s fun to look), Morris Minors (my wife wants one), Fiat X1/9s (I want one), and old ’80s/90s Tamiya and Kyosho RC cars.

  12. I don’t know about anyone else, but that electric RAM teaser seemed pretty promising to me. I’m really curious to see what the full design looks like. From the headlights and silhouette, it seems like it might successfully straddle the gap between Ford’s approach of “looks like a truck, but it is electric” and Tesla’s approach of “looks like it rolled out of the imagined future of 1993’s Demolition Man.”

    Something in-between could be amazing.

    Of course, all of the comments on the tweet are either diehard Ford guys saying it won’t be as good as the Lightning, or diehard RAM guys complaining that it doesn’t look enough like a regular RAM, and in either case I think the best we can do is read them aloud in the voice of your favorite King of the Hill character and then move along and hope the designers pay them no mind.

    1. My take is that I’m glad Ram is making an EV and I hope the truck is good. And also it is kind of embarrassing for them to think they’re stealing anyone’s thunder by teasing a truck that you won’t get until next year at the earliest while Ford has Lightnings rolling off the factory line.

  13. “Where else can someone finance an aged, weathered depreciating asset at 28 percent APR for 60 months?”

    At RV dealerships. The stereotypical slick used car salesman has become less ubiquitous, and as far as I can tell they all moved over to RV sales. They’ll get you a high-APR loan for 10-15 years on something that stands a decent chance of being scrap before it’s paid off.

  14. The phrasing of the RAM announcement is interesting, maybe they sped up the deadlines?

    That said, I wouldn’t want to buy a rushed version of a Stellantis product with a lot of new tech in it.

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