‘Don’t play’: Ford is electrifying icons to boost EV sales

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So what does the future of electric cars look like? If you’re reading this, we have a photo.

What does it look like?

Click on the audio above, but turn it up.

That little rumble you may not have heard is that of the 3.5-ton Ford F-150 Lightning pickup truck going from zero to 60 in about 4 seconds. All without gasoline, bottle or transmission. When you open the hood, there is only room for your luggage.

The truck was also a highlight of the Memphis International Auto Show last weekend, the first since the pandemic. There were a lot of new cars to discover. But electric vehicles were in high circulation.

Ryan McElroy, president of the Greater Memphis Auto Dealers Association, says now that automakers are finally getting serious with electric products, consumer interest is growing.

“Now suddenly when you can get a Mustang you can get a pickup truck, when you can get a Hummer that’s all electric, well, now that’s cool,” he says. “People want to jump on board.”

That’s why Ford Motor Company is spending $5.6 billion on Blue Oval City, a massive electric car factory between Memphis and Jackson. When it opens in 2025, Ford’s next generation of electric cars and trucks will be on its assembly line.

Currently, electric vehicles represent only about 1% of annual auto sales in the United States. But in about 30 years, manufacturers hope to reach 100%.

Changing gears – to borrow a soon-to-be-obsolete phrase – has been a challenge for the industry, not least because of mixed feelings about electrics. Greg Christensen, director of Ford’s electric vehicle footprint, explains that some of these considerations are practical. That’s partly because Americans are romantic about their cars.

“For a lot of us, for a lot of people, it communicates who we are in some way,” he says. “And it’s a bit of a love story.”

That’s why, says Christensen, Ford is electrifying its icons.

“I mean, it’s F-150, it’s Mustang. It’s Transit,” he says. “They’re industry leaders. The F-150 has been the best-selling pickup for 44 years. So we’re not playing.”

Jasen Turnbull is the marketing manager for the F-150 Lightning. He says getting buy-in from construction workers, farmers and people who tow boats to the lake on weekends has meant having new conversations about electric vehicles. Saving the planet is not the best selling point.

“People who were like, ‘Hey, I’m never going to drive an electric vehicle,’ we really explained to them the benefits of this one,” he says. “And so it’s a better vehicle, more capable, and also a lower cost of ownership. Electricity to charge it at home is about half the price of gasoline. So it’s not really ‘C ‘is a green vehicle, please buy it.’ It’s ‘Oh, by the way, it’s very durable.'”

In the event of a power outage, your fully charged truck battery can also keep the lights on in your home. With features like that, Turnbull says, fewer people miss the growl of the V8. Inside the quiet interior, a giant touchscreen on the dash is the most obvious sign that we’ll all be driving computers in the future.

“Does it have Netflix?” asks this journalist.

“Soon,” Turnbull winks.

So it’s not perfect. But as we pull to the line for another lap on the test track, it still seems unreal that the future of cars will be an f-150 monster with the roar of a golf cart.

Christopher Blank, WKNO-FM

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The new F-150 Lightning features a large in-dash computer and hands-free driving.
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