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Ford to Double EV Production, Scraps Plans with Rivian

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The body of a pre-production 2022 Ford F-150 Lighting at the Ford Rouge Electric Vehicle Center
Ford will increase global EV production to 600,000 by 2023
Photo: Ford

If the early response to the 2022 Ford F-150 Lightning is any indication, Ford needs to start ramping up its expectations for EV production. And according to CEO Jim Farley, that begins by doubling annual output to 600,000 electric vehicles a year by 2023.

Ford’s Got a Smash Hit on Its Hands: See why the 2022 Ford F-150 Lightning is electrifying drivers in droves

Farley spoke with Automotive News this week and revealed that the automaker will double its original projections for EV production. By building 600,000 EVs a year, Ford would become America’s No. 2 electric vehicle manufacturer behind Tesla.

The decision to beef up production comes as the all-new F-150 Lightning surpassed 160,000 reservations just six months from its May debut. Farley told Auto News that the number is now closing in on 200,000 F-150 Lightnings and that the expectation is around 80 percent of those reservations will convert to sales.

“The demand is so much higher than we expected,” Farley said. “It’s a really new experience for this big company, trying to be agile. We had to approach it very differently than we’ve done capacity planning.”

While bumping global production capacity to 600,000 EVs would solidify Ford as the No. 2 behind Tesla, the automaker is not content to stop there.

“I’m saying No. 2 in the next two years,” Farley said. “Imagine what we can do after that.”

Ford F-150 Lightning demand and desirability surge

2022 Ford F-150 Lightning Platinum Ford Intelligent Backup Power
New F-150 Lightning boasts unique tech like Ford Intelligent Backup Assist
Photo: Ford

Ford had originally intended to build just 20,000 F-150 Lightning pickups per year. However, the huge crush of demand for the truck led Ford to invest another $250 million across three Michigan plants, increasing annual output to 80,000 and adding 450 new direct jobs.

Ford finds itself in the driver’s seat in the early going of the electric truck wars. When the F-150 Lightning arrives next spring, only the GMC Hummer EV and the Rivian R1T will have beaten it to market. Those two trucks brought up the rear in a recent Autolist survey, which found that more drivers are interested in buying the F-150 Lightning than any other electric pickup.

“Crucially, the F-150 Lightning is the first large-scale, all-electric truck to be launched in the U.S.,” said Autolist President and CEO Corey Lydstone. “Given Americans’ appetite for all things truck-related, that’s Ford’s ace in the hole.”

2022 Ford F-150 Lightning Pro
Ford F-150 Lightning doesn’t reinvent the wheel when it comes to looks (unlike some trucks)
Photo: Ford

According to the results of a survey released Friday, 38 percent said they would prefer the Ford F-150 Lightning over the Silverado EV, Tesla Cybertruck, GMC Hummer EV, and Rivian R1T. The Silverado EV, which will be revealed at CES in January, came in second at 26 percent. Tesla’s, uh, let’s say wonky-looking Cybertruck sits at third with 20 percent, the Hummer EV ranks fourth at 11 percent, and the Rivian R1T finished last with just 5 percent.

Interestingly, interest is even higher among drivers who haven’t owned an EV before. Thirty-nine percent of respondents who have yet to own an EV said they’d be more interested in the F-150 Lightning compared to 33 percent of current EV owners giving the nod to the Ford. Ford also had a large advantage among prospective first-time truck owners (34 percent) and current truck owners (41 percent).

“This is just more evidence that Ford’s F-150 Lightning will be the electric truck to beat when it comes to market in 2022,” Lydstone said. “Being able to appeal to both experienced EV shoppers and newcomers to electric power will be critical.”

It’s also worth noting that Ford says around 75 percent of all current F-150 Lightning reservation holders are new to the Blue Oval brand.

Ford, Rivian drop plans for jointly developed EV

Ford Rivian Investment
Rivian CEO RJ Scaringe says Ford partnership is “an important part of our journey”
Photo: Ford

Another interesting wrinkle in the EV truck race is the fact that Ford is a major stakeholder in Rivian. Until recently, Ford — who has invested $1.2 billion in the company since 2019 — had planned to jointly develop a vehicle with Rivian. But Farley told Auto News this week that the two companies have agreed to cancel those plans.

“When you compare today with when we originally made that investment, so much has changed: about our ability, about the brand’s direction in both cases, and now it’s more certain to us what we have to do. We want to invest in Rivian — we love their future as a company — but at this point, we’re going to develop our own vehicles.”

Rivian opened up an initial public stock offering on Nov. 10. By the close of trading, the stock had risen from $78 to $100.73 per share, resulting in a valuation of $86 billion and a market cap of $127.3 billion. The latter was nearly $50 billion higher than Ford’s estimated market cap as of Nov. 10.

But the decision to discontinue a joint project is not the result of hard feelings. Farley told Auto News that the relationship with Rivian is like that of “a brother or a sister.” Rivian CEO RJ Scaringe, in a statement, confirmed that Ford “remains an investor and ally on our shared path to an electrified future.” There’s also Ford representation on Rivian’s board — Alexandra Ford English, Ford Executive Chair Bill Ford’s daughter, has been a member of Rivian’s board of directors since May 2020.

Ford and Rivian had initially planned to use the latter’s skateboard chassis to underpin an electric vehicle for the latter’s Lincoln luxury brand. However, the plug was pulled on those plans, and Lincoln will now set about plans to go all-electric by debuting its first EV next year.

Lincoln will play a role in Ford’s plans to produce 600,000 EVs globally per year by 2023 — and its ambitions to be the world’s top EV producer thereafter. Ford will continue to expand its EV offerings over the next several years, with likely additions being electric versions of the Ford Explorer and Lincoln Aviator as well as an all-electric Ford Bronco.