Ford CEO on F-150 Lightning: ‘we want to lead the electric revolution’

Yahoo Finance’s Brian Sozzi speaks with Ford CEO Jim Farley about the Ford F-150 Lightning debut, the company’s investment in the electric vehicle space, and much more.

Video Transcript

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BRIAN SOZZI: Ford officially revealed its hotly anticipated first all-electric F-150 Wednesday night. The Lightning promises 10,000 pounds of towing capacity, over the air software updates, and the ability to power your home via backup power capability. Cool stuff. The extended range version boasts a 300-mile range on a charge, 563 horsepower in a mid 4-second 0 to 60 time. Impressive stats. Joining us now for more on this release is Ford's president and CEO, Jim Farley. Jim, good to speak with you again here. A lot of focus this morning on the price, the starting price, under $40,000 for this truck. How did you get it under $40,000?

JIM FARLEY: Scale. We built more than a million F series. It's been the number one vehicle in the United States for over four decades. So we have great scale. And it allows us to do this kind of thing. We don't have to reuse seeds. We have brake system. Everything is-- we just have incredible scale. So it's a huge advantage for us. And we want to lead the electric revolution. We don't-- we really want to transition ice customers over to this technology. It's a really critical strategy for the company.

BRIAN SOZZI: Jim, you have decades of loyal F-150 drivers, really folks, that have grown up on this brand. And they've also grown up using gas-powered F-150s. Do you think this is a tough sell to them?

JIM FARLEY: No, we have 20,000 orders this morning, 12 hours after launching. You know, what I found about full size truck customers, you know, when we went aluminum, they loved saving 500 pounds. They have titanium fishing rods. They have multiple computers inside the vehicle. They're running their business inside. These truck customers are the most advanced-- some of the most advanced technology people. We put a 15 and 1/2 inch screen in this vehicle because of it. We have over the air updates. They love all that technology. They love new technology. It's just a pickup truck. Shape kind of looks like it's, you know, looked for a long time.

BRIAN SOZZI: 20,000 orders, Jim-- that's impressive, considering you just debuted this last night. When will you start delivering the new truck?

JIM FARLEY: Spring of next year. So we have the Mach-E, the Mustang Mach-E right now-- sold out for several months. 70% of the customers are new. That's on sale now. We have the E-Transit, the number one van in the world and in the US. That goes on sale, that electric version goes on sale late this year in the United States.

And in spring of next year, we launch the Lightning. We have a commercial version of Lightning because we're number one in the commercial vehicle business here in the United States, almost 50% of that market. And we have a retail one. They're slightly different. The commercial customers have a very different look at the electric market. The retail customers, they want all that performance, all that technology.

BRIAN SOZZI: Jim, F-150s are known-- they're known for their durability. People buy one, and they still have the same 20 to 25 years later. Will this truck have that same type of durability, given the fact that is, I guess, over the air, software updates, battery powered, you name it.

JIM FARLEY: You know, it's a good question. And it's one of the reasons why Ford launching this vehicle this time is so important for our industry. Because we are built Ford tough. We've done all the durability testing. You know, we've sunk the batteries in mud holes and running through all of our water tests. We do all the vibration testing. We've been in this business for a decade of making these trucks, a century. And so, we have the toughest testing of any brands. And people trust us at Ford. So the vehicle has to deliver on that durability you mentioned. And we are going to market this as built Ford tough. And we will have an exclusive version for commercial customers.

BRIAN SOZZI: Jim, you're a car guy. You've been working on cars, what, since your '66 Black Ford Mustang. How do you size up the competition in the electric truck space right now?

JIM FARLEY: Well, I'd say-- I'd use a metaphor. You know, there's a lot of great soda companies out there, but there's only one Coke. Bring on the Mountain Dews, bring on the Pepsis, but there's only one F-150.

BRIAN SOZZI: Well done there. You know, you had a chance to take the president around the track in the new Lightning. What did you two talk about?

JIM FARLEY: That was totally unexpected. And Secret Service really didn't want him to get in the truck when we did a static review. He got in for 10 minutes. And then in the middle of his speech, he said, look, I want to drive the truck. Everyone laughed. He said no, I'm serious. The Secret Service tapped me on the shoulder and said, Jim, we need to get to the test track right now. We rushed over there at 90 miles an hour in the motorcade.

And he jumped in the truck. He looked at me. I wanted to jump in with him, but the Secret Security people said no. And then the president said, what should I do, Jim? I said, just step on the throttle, 0 to 60 in four seconds. And he had a big smile on his face. He was loving it. It looked like Top Gun. He had the Ray-Bans on. He was loving that moment.

BRIAN SOZZI: No, you're a wise man, Jim. You don't want to mess with the United States Secret Service. You know, but-- you know, it is interesting to hear the debate on Capitol Hill right now. Some Republicans are hesitant to sign off on putting a large amount of investment in the EV space. Is this a make or break moment for this country?

JIM FARLEY: I think it is. It really is. Because customers want this new technology. You got to think of these vehicles not as electric. Think of them as digital. They can get better every day, just like your phone. And so, the value to customers with this technology, this vehicle can power your house for three days. Imagine if you're in Texas during that ice storm, and you could have power for your vehicle-- your house for three days, you know? It's a big deal. The benefit, it's a digital product. It's not just electric. We can electrify job sites. You don't need a diesel generator. You know, it's a different technology. It's just a better product.

Look, I love our gas lineup of Mustangs and Broncos. And there'll be lots of customers who choose that. But this is just a better product for many customers. And I think it's time for us to be competitive. We got to be globally competitive in batteries. You know, all the chip manufacturing, some of it has to come back to the US. This is a competitive issue for our country.

BRIAN SOZZI: In our lifetimes, Jim-- we're both still pretty young fellows here. Do you think Ford is no longer making gas-powered engines in our lifetime?

JIM FARLEY: I don't know when it's going to come. I think if there's one product that we should all look at, it's F series. We have a hybrid version. We have a gas version. We have a diesel version. And now we have electric version. And they're all really different. And the electric one is a digital product. As I've said, it does all these other things. So I think let's look at what happens a year from now. If this vehicle takes off-- 20,000 orders in 12 hours-- pretty good indication-- I think we're into a different game.

But we have a lot of commercial customers-- we're the leaders, I said-- that drive 600 miles a day. Electric probably isn't going to be the best duty cycle for them. If you're towing an RV that have become really popular in the pandemic, probably not for 1,000-mile trip. This is probably not the best technology for you. We have a hybrid truck that can do that and power your campsite. So I think let's make the customer choose that. But over time, you know, definitely this is the future of our industry, a big part of it. And we're going to talk about that in our capital markets day next week.

BRIAN SOZZI: Yeah, no, a lot of folks are very interested in that capital markets day. But Jim, before I let you go, 20,000 orders for the new F-150 Lightning-- that is impressive stuff. Can you make that amount of trucks by spring next year, given where the semiconductor shortage is?

JIM FARLEY: Look, we see the semiconductor shortage improving in the second half. We were disproportionately impacted-- or some of us were-- in the second quarter, which we think is a trough because of this Reneses Naka 3 facility in Japan. They're back up and running now. They had a fire burn the whole place down. And they're back up and running. We're confident. But the demand has really outstripped even what we thought six months ago. So I think we're going to be catching up to demand for a long time to come. As far as the Ford team, we make a million of these F series every year. Don't bet against the Ford team on manufacturing what we need.

BRIAN SOZZI: Well, good to see Ford on the comeback trail and good to see this launch of your first electric F-150. Ford CEO Jim Farley, good to see you. Stay safe. We'll talk to you soon.

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