Ford Motor is ready to take on the challenge of slower-than-expected sales of its all-electric vehicles with a big bet on the hybrid version of its F-150 pickup truck. The automaker plans to double production of the F-150 hybrid, aiming to achieve roughly 20% of total sales in the U.S. during the 2024 model year. Although specific production figures were not disclosed, it is estimated that this increase will result in tens of thousands more hybrid vehicles on the market.
However, reaching this ambitious production target will not be easy, given the potential strike by the United Auto Workers (UAW) looming over Ford and its crosstown rivals. If a strike occurs, it could lead to the shutdown of some or all of their U.S. factories. Ford, along with General Motors and Stellantis, must reach separate agreements with the UAW for their combined 146,000 autoworkers by Thursday’s midnight deadline to avoid work stoppages.
A Strategic Shift
Ford’s decision to double down on hybrid vehicles comes after CEO Jim Farley announced in late July that the company would quadruple its production of gas-electric hybrids. This strategic shift reflects Ford’s commitment to increasing EV production at a slower pace than previously anticipated, while still prioritizing growth, profitability, and return on investment. Farley believes that demand for their internal combustion and hybrid portfolio will be sustained, potentially exceeding expectations.
With this renewed focus on hybrids, Ford’s president of the traditional “Blue” business unit, Kumar Galhotra, envisions the F-150 becoming the best-selling hybrid vehicle in North America. Traditionally, this title has been held by Toyota Motor’s RAV4 or Prius. This ambitious vision could not only contribute to Ford’s success but also ensure the preservation of many engine manufacturing jobs for the foreseeable future, which aligns with the interests of the union.
Hybrids as a Stepping Stone
Hybrid vehicles, unlike their all-electric counterparts, combine internal combustion engines with small batteries to enhance performance and fuel efficiency. They serve as an intermediate option for customers who are not yet ready to fully transition to electric vehicles. John Emmert, Ford truck general manager, believes that the F-150 PowerBoost hybrid can help bridge the gap between traditional combustion engines and full electrification.
Ford’s decision to increase production of the F-150 hybrid was driven by overwhelming demand, as hybrid models outpaced the current production capacity for both the F-150 and the Ford Maverick small pickup. Ford sees the hybrid variant as the ideal solution for customers who are not yet ready to embrace full electrification. It acknowledges that certain factors such as towing requirements and range limitations in rural areas may make the all-electric F-150 Lightning less suitable for some customers.
Ford has a history of making bold engine lineup changes to improve fuel economy and performance. The introduction of the twin-turbocharged EcoBoost engines in 2011 is a prime example. Initially met with skepticism, these engines now power a majority of F-150 vehicles sold. As Ford’s offerings continue to evolve, it aims to cater to every customer’s needs, whether they require the power of a V-8 engine or the efficiency of a hybrid or all-electric drivetrain.
While Ford has not disclosed specific pricing for the 2024 F-150 hybrid with the 3.5-liter V-6 “PowerBoost” engine, it is expected to be priced similarly to the current model’s 3.5-liter V6 EcoBoost engine. The 2024 lineup is slated to start at $35,570, while the 2023 F-150 starts at $34,585. The F-150 hybrid is expected to offer impressive performance with 430 horsepower and 570 lb.-ft. of torque, making it one of the most powerful options in the F-Series lineup.
Aside from increased hybrid production, Ford has also unveiled a refreshed version of the F-150 for the 2024 model year. The new model features exterior and interior updates, including a redesigned tailgate that offers multiple access options to the vehicle’s bed. In addition, the 2024 F-150 introduces various safety and convenience features, showcasing Ford’s commitment to continuously improving their flagship pickup truck.
Ford’s decision to double production of the F-150 hybrid demonstrates its determination to overcome challenges and drive growth in the face of slower EV sales. With the potential strike looming, the path to achieving their ambitious production target may prove to be more challenging than anticipated. However, Ford remains steadfast in its belief that hybrids will play a crucial role in the transition to electrification, offering a flexible and practical option for customers who are not yet ready to embrace full electric vehicles.
As the future unfolds, Ford’s F-150 hybrid stands poised to capture a significant share of the market and potentially become the best-selling hybrid in North America. With continued innovation and a keen focus on customer needs, Ford is positioning itself for success in the evolving landscape of automotive sustainability.