Ford's electric F-150 Lightning is clearly in high demand, and the company is determined to keep up. The automaker has paired news of pre-production work with a promise to invest an extra $250 million and create 450 new jobs to increase production capacity. That should help Ford build 80,000 Lightning trucks per year — little comfort when the company now has 150,000 reservations, but the move should reduce wait times.
Most of the jobs will go to workers assembling the electric F-150 at the Rouge Electric Vehicle Center in Dearborn, Michigan, while others will build more batteries at the Rawsonville Components Plant and motors at the Van Dyke Electric Powertrain Center. The first trucks should be available in spring 2022.
The production numbers won't compete with conventional trucks for a while. As Autoweek observed, Ford averaged sales of about 900,000 regular F-150 trucks per year before the pandemic and chip shortages came into play. While the Lightning may be more than a niche product, it's not yet at the point where Ford would have to reconsider its conventional truck production.
There's also a certain amount of posturing involved with the news. Ford is clearly eager to please a government promoting made-in-America EVs. However, it's still a recognition of pent-up demand for electric pickups, both from Ford and from the industry as a whole. Not that Ford might have much choice. With Rivian already producing its first trucks, Ford risks losing sales to competitors if it doesn't ramp up manufacturing.