Ford Lightning Getting Company in Tennessee



The 2022 Ford F-150 Lightning has officially started production at the company’s Rouge Electric Vehicle Center in Michigan and will apparently be getting some company at the Blue Oval City campus in Tennessee. On Tuesday, CEO Jim Farley said that the upcoming plant had been selected to produce a new model during a press event covering the official launch of the all-electric F-Series.

“It’s another truck,” he explained. “This is not our only truck. We said very clearly we want to be the leader in electric pickup trucks.”

Having manufactured a couple thousand already, Ford has stopped taking orders for the Lightning after citing high demand. It’s more or less what happened with the “Mustang” Mach-E. But the company is planning to sell 600,000 electric vehicles globally over the next two years and needs to expand its production capabilities for electric models. That’s where Blue Oval City comes into play.

Presumed to open in 2025, the facility will be jointly operated by Ford Motor Co. and South Korea’s SK Innovation. The site is said to include assembly lines, as well as a battery production plant and battery recycling center — resulting in an estimated 5,800 employees. Until Tuesday, the Lightning was the only vehicle Ford had confirmed for production.

Due to the focus of the event being on Ford’s expansion of the River Rouge Complex and all-electric F-150, Farley provided no details about the new truck that’s being planned for Blue Oval City. However, a spokesperson from the company was able to confirm that the EV will not be based on the F-Series. They also referenced it as a next-generation vehicle — presumably indicating it’ll be a redesigned version of an existing product. Considering that the Maverick is brand new and unlikely to be overhauled within the next three years, that really only leaves the mid-sized Ranger unless they misspoke and meant it would be totally novel.

But it’s hard to imagine yet another pickup joining Ford’s ranks, even with the CEO’s admission that Ford wants to be the leader in electric pickup trucks. With the F-Series already offered in a cornucopia of flavors, and the company providing smaller alternatives with the Maverick and Ranger, we would be surprised to see a wholly new product developed outside those sizing boundaries. It seems much more plausible for Ford to take an existing vehicle and set up its successive generation with the option to be fitted with battery packs and electric motors.

We’ve also previously heard from Ford’s European and Australian management heads that an electrified version of the Ranger (PHEV and/or BEV) was already in development. The speculative launch for that was rumored to be early 2025, which coincides with the completion of Blue Oval City. Europe is also approaching the launch of stringent Euro 7 regulations that will introduce an emissions-based road tax that will gradually increase penalties for combustion-driven vehicles. With the Ranger being Ford’s best-selling pickup for the region, it would be almost unimaginable that it would leave it as a combustion-only model.

Though concerns remain regarding the industry’s ability to produce EVs at a healthy pace. Despite there being lower demand for all-electric products in general, global supply chains have remained an issue. China, which represents over 60 percent of the world’s chemical processing and refining of critical battery minerals, has restricted trade and reduced output during its most recent round of COVID lockdowns. And there are concerns that future international conflicts could hamper already limited Western supplies. Demand for battery production is also at an all-time high, further driving up material costs during an inflationary period.

“The good news is there’s tremendous demand for our products but it is frustrating that we can’t build them in a timely fashion,” Executive Chairman Bill Ford told reporters. “Our team has done a great job of breaking bottlenecks but then new ones pop up and that’s just the world we’re in, unfortunately. We don’t want to lose those customers; we don’t want them to walk away and we’re doing everything we can to accommodate them.”

[Image: Ford Motor Co.]

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