What Does Ford Need to Do to Kill the Tesla Pickup Truck?
Tesla is all set to take away the lunch money from Ford’s breadwinner and the latter needs to act fast on itby Sidd Dhimaan, on
The invasion of EVs is nothing short of a paradigm shift in the auto industry. A segment that seemed to remain untouched and wary of electrification for the longest period is finally starting to look vulnerable and at the brink of a major breakthrough, thanks to companies like Tesla and Rivian. Since Ford has been dominating the pickup truck segment for over four decades now, it has the biggest target on its back. For now, Ford has managed to weather the storm by keeping the electrified competition at bay – well, to an extent – but that doesn’t mean it will be able to sit on the throne when electrification takes prominence.
For now, the three big names here are Tesla, Rivian, and Ford. Although Rivian is doing well and we are excited for the launch of its R1T pickup truck, Ford’s biggest challenger will be the EV Czar, Tesla. Here are 11 points we’ve listed that Ford needs to do to have the upper hand on Tesla’s pickup truck – that will apparently be called the Tesla Model B - and rule the segment when the dust settles.
Better Towing Capacity? Checked!
Tesla’s biggest attack on Ford to date was when the Musk-led company announced a 300,000-pound towing capacity for its unnamed pickup truck. Musk has reiterated on many occasions that its new electric truck will be much better than the Ford F-150. A 300,000-pound towing capacity was unheard of until a month back, because even the Super Duty and Heavy Duty trucks from Ford, Chevy, and Ram could only tow somewhere in the ballpark of 35,000 pounds.
However, Ford answered Tesla’s slap with a punch by showcasing its F-150 electric prototype for the first time ever.
Ford announced its arrival by towing 1.25 million pounds, thus taking the game to an all-new level. We are yet to see Tesla respond to this.
Ford Needs To Launch Its Electric Pickup Truck Before Tesla
If Ford wants to maintain the upper hand here, it needs to launch the electric Ford F-150 before Tesla launches its electric pickup truck. This seems highly unlikely because news surfacing online suggest that Tesla could hold an event to launch its electric truck next month. There is no confirmation from Tesla on this, but if it does launch next month, then Ford is in trouble.
The Blue Oval has announced on previous occasions that it plans to launch over a dozen electric vehicles by 2022.
There is a high possibility that the electric Ford F-150 will be one of them. Also, this will be based on the 2021 Ford F-150, which is expected to launch in mid-2020. The best that Ford could do is launch the electric version along with the next-gen F-150 and start deliveries by the end of next year.
The Price Needs To Be On Par With The Tesla Pickup’s sub-$50,000 Figure
This will be a big challenge because Musk has already announced that the Tesla pickup truck will be starting under $50,000. This is a price to beat if Ford plans to sell in volumes.
Tesla is a pioneer in EVs, and it will maintain this stance even in the case of pickup trucks.
The start-up has also been giving its 100 percent into building electric powertrains, unlike Ford which has a variety of six different combustion engines just for the F-150! So, it goes unsaid that Ford does not have the expertise of Tesla when it comes to electric powertrains. The Blue Oval is spending millions of dollars in Research and Development right now, and it won’t be able to contain costs unless it begins volume production. To produce and sell in volumes, Ford needs to price the truck on par with the Tesla truck, and to be able to price the truck at par with the Tesla, it needs to build and sell in volumes. It’s a vicious cycle.
Nullify Rivian’s Threat By Taking It Over And Fight Tesla With The Combined Expertise
This is a big leap, but by joining forces, Ford, along with Rivian, should be able to dilute Tesla’s threat to a certain extent. Every competitor in this war has some or the other advantage that the other doesn’t. Ford has the money, Rivian has the technology, but Tesla has both. So, why not just collude and take out Tesla from the picture altogether?
Rivian and Tesla are targeting a different customer base, so they can co-exist on some levels, but that does not mean they are not a threat to each other.
Ford has also invested $500 million in Rivian. That obviously means Ford is benefiting from it, but how?
Both companies have announced that they will have a love child sometime in the future on Rivian’s skateboard architecture. However, this won’t be the F-150 as its production has not begun yet. So, there is certainly something else because Ford will not risk its electric truck’s future waiting for both of them to develop a product together at some point down the line. On the flip side, Ford will be investing $11 billion in developing its electric portfolio. This means $500 million is not that big an investment for the company. So, what’s to say that Ford won’t acquire Rivian and take on Tesla with double power?
Come Up With A New Design Philosophy To Distinguish It From The Combustion-Engined F-Series
If Ford manages to pull this one, it will prove revolutionary for the brand.
Ford needs to go for something drastic to stay ‘relevant’ in terms of appearance and looks.
We haven’t seen the Tesla truck yet, but if we go by the renderings and the ‘cyberpunk’ looks described by Elon Musk, it will surely be nothing like the internal combustion engined trucks we are used to seeing. The traditional trucks are bulky, boxy, and follow an awful trend that’s going on with these mammoth grilles on their faces. Ford’s electric prototype looked largely similar to the standard F-150, and I’m afraid, it will be considered outdated when compared to the likes of Tesla and even Rivian, for that matter. Does Ford have the stomach to go berserk in what could be a future-defining moment for the company?
Introduce New Technologies To Keep The Techheads Invested
Tesla has literally eliminated the use of buttons inside its cabins. For a techhead, this could be a deal maker. Ford has a decent SYNC3 infotainment system in its arsenal, but that won’t be enough to take on Tesla’s high tech cabin.
The current crop of Ford trucks is a nice mix of buttons and touchscreens, but with the way the EV cabins are defined, this one won’t fit the bill.
So, I’m guessing Ford could offer a new 12-inch touchscreen to mate with its fantastic SYNC3 system. Perhaps it will be something similar to the Explorer’s vertical touchscreen? To differentiate itself from Tesla and add another unique selling proposition to the list, we could see an in-bed infotainment system as well. Ford has filed a patent application with the U.S. Patent Office about an infotainment system using the rail system in the bed that gives extra options for customers to watch movies and whatnot straight from the bed. There is very little clarity on this as of now, but we hope that the electric Ford F-150 comes with something similar.
Existing Loyal Customers Will Draw More Sales Than New Customers
This is where Ford will expect to generate maximum sales. Given that Ford sells almost a million examples of the F-Series and the F-150 contributes to the majority of this, there should be a large chunk of old customers giving this a try in their next buy instead of going for the Tesla or the Rivian.
Even if Ford is not able to contain the starting price at below $50,000, offering a strong loyalty bonus to existing owners will surely help Ford sell a lot more than it would by targeting new customers.
This is actually not that big of a deal if Ford does it the right way. Other than a loyalty bonus, Ford could offer an additional year of warranty on the battery and the powertrain, a certain percentage of discount on accessories, free charging at its stations nation-wide and other benefits to returning customers. If Ford can work out the math, it should make these offers available to all the existing Ford vehicle owners instead of limiting it to just the truck owners.
Ford Needs To Introduce An Exclusive Work-Truck Trim
Introducing a special work-truck variant on the electric F-150 will work wonders for the company.
Tesla will be the first choice for techheads since we can expect a lot of technology in the truck.
There’s no word on this, but it could feature Autopilot as well. Rivian, on the other hand, is focusing on the adventure lifestyle slice of the pie. Ford has already showcased the towing prowess on the electric prototype of the truck. That towing capacity will only lure folks looking at it from a work-truck/commercial-truck point of view. The video Ford released a month back has served its purpose completely and I’m sure the current F-150 owners will look to upgrade to this truck. Electric motors have the ability to deliver instant torque in a smooth fashion right from a standstill; something that the internal combustion engines can’t. The problem, however, will be the range going down while the truck is towing such big loads. But by the time the truck is launched, the battery technology will evolve to superior levels and Ford will launch it with a battery pack that can complement its towing capabilities. Also, if need be, the batteries could be charged at the job sites as there’s generally no shortage of generators there. With all these things in mind, a work-truck variant on the electric F-150 will draw in maximum sales for the Blue Oval.
Offering a Long Range Is An Absolute Must
This will be a very critical point when Ford rolls out the truck in the final production form. A range is the biggest deciding factor for any potential owner. That is one of the main reasons for the BMW i3’s downfall. Tesla offers special Long Range models on its current crop and we can expect a similar trend to follow in the truck palette as well.
From what we know so far, the Tesla pickup truck will feature dual motors and a suspension that dynamically adjusts for the load (as standard gear) and will most likely come with a range of 500 miles on a single full charge.
The Rivian R1T is said to offer a range of around 400 miles.
There Is No Space For Mediocrity Anymore
I have been whining for ages about Ford not introducing a functional tailgate like GMC’s MultiPro tailgate and Ram’s Multifunction tailgate. This is the opportunity to rectify the ‘sin’. Perhaps Ford will introduce something on the standard 2021 Ford F-150 and we could see it on the electric truck as well.
The competition is also offering air suspension and to keep the scores level, Ford needs to offer this as well.
Performance has never been Ford’s strong suit when it comes to SUVs or trucks, but it needs to up the ante in case of the electric Ford F-150. Both the Tesla and the Rivian trucks are strong on performance. The 0-60 mph claimed figure is under three seconds, which is seriously quick. Will Ford create a sort of ’Usain Bolt’ for its stable?
Improve Other Aftersales-Support Aspects
Ford has plenty of areas to grow in to create a memorable experience for the future Ford electric truck owners. The areas I’m talking about will make the long-term ownership a pleasant one; something that is unheard of in case of a Tesla and unexplored in case of a Rivian. Ford is known to offer a lot of off-road packages and stuff on its other products.
Introducing a Mopar-like Bible of accessories and packages for the electric F-150 will put Ford in a different league altogether.
Perhaps the company could also think of partnering up with reputed aftermarket companies like Hennessey, Roush, and Tuscany to tap into their loyal customer base as well. Another aspect Ford could tap into is the subscription program. This is unheard of in the truck segment and may not be financially viable. But, if Ford decides to implement it and it clicks, it will be beneficial for the company. Lastly, Ford has the biggest spread of service centers across the length and breadth of the U.S. of the three said carmakers. Increasing this base will help Ford in the long run because electric trucks are an unfamiliar category and owners will not risk going for a DIY solution no matter how small the problem.
Can you think of any more ways that Ford could gain the upper hand on Tesla? Share your thoughts with us in the comments section below.
Read our full speculative review on the 2020 Tesla Pickup.
Read our full review on the 2020 Rivian R1T Pickup.