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Ford ramps up F-150 Lightning production to meet hot demand for the EV pickup

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The Ford F-150 Lightning electric pickup hasn't even gone on sale yet, but demand is so red hot that the automaker is already ramping up production.

The first Lightning prototypes are rolling off an assembly line in Dearborn, Mich. for real-world testing, with the truck arriving in dealerships this spring. But with 150,000 reservations already in hand for its inaugural EV pickup truck, Ford (F) announced Thursday that it will invest an additional $250 million and add 450 more jobs at three Michigan plants to boost production. That’s on top of a $700 million investment Ford made last year to prepare its historic Rouge manufacturing plant for electric vehicle production.

Ford’s President of Americas and International Markets Group Kumar Galhotra told Yahoo Finance Live the moves will help increase production capacity to 80,000 trucks a year.

“The reservations have far outstripped what we were originally planning on building,” Galhotra said. "At some point, when we get closer to production, the customers take the reservation and convert it into orders, and we expect the majority of the reservations to convert to orders. We followed a very similar reservation system for our Bronco launch and Mustang Mach-E launch."

Galhotra admits that the COVID-19 pandemic and the ongoing global computer chip shortage have made production “challenging.”

“For example, there is a chip supplier in Malaysia that didn’t experience the chip shortage per se, but was hit with a substantial COVID outbreak, so when the two intersect, it causes more disruptions for us," he said. "But we're managing very well. Third quarter production is going to be better than second quarter.”

Crowded EV market

Ford is joining an increasingly crowded electric truck market. 

The EV startup Rivian, which counts Ford as an investor, was supposed to launch its $67,500 electric truck in June, but delayed the rollout until at least this fall, with other models set to be delivered in early 2022. The troubled Detroit-based upstart Lordstown (RIDE) promises its $50,000 Endurance electric pickup will head into production this month, while Tesla’s (TSLA) $40,000-plus entry-level CyberTruck is expected to arrive to market later this year.

With a base model price of just under $40,000, Ford’s F-150 Lightning undercuts the competition. A $50,000 version boasts a 300-mile range on a charge, promises 10,000 pounds of towing capacity and can go from 0 mph-60 mph in about 4.4 seconds. 

A Ford Motors pre-production all-electric F-150 Lightning truck prototype is seen at the Rouge Electric Vehicle Center in the Rouge Complex in Dearborn, Michigan, U.S. September 16, 2021   REUTERS/Rebecca Cook
A Ford Motors pre-production all-electric F-150 Lightning truck prototype is seen at the Rouge Electric Vehicle Center in the Rouge Complex in Dearborn, Michigan, U.S. September 16, 2021 REUTERS/Rebecca Cook

Ford's decision to expand production capacity proves the company is confident that its loyal customer base, which made its gas-powered F-150 America’s bestselling vehicle, is ready to plug in an all-electric pickup.

"We know our truck customers very, very well," said Galhotra. "By the way, we had similar skepticism from a lot of folks when we launched the EcoBoost (Ford's line of turbocharged, direct-injection gas engines). People were telling us that customers only liked the V-8s, so it may not be successful, but it was incredibly successful." 

He added, "I think we are repeating a similar transformation. Truck customers are very savvy."

Alexis Christoforous is an anchor at Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter @AlexisTVNews.

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