The Ford F-150 Ligthing’s short, roughly year-and-a-half on the car market hasn’t been completely flawless.
It became a fire risk for a few weeks, causing the manufacturer to both idle the production plant and place a stop-sale on the truck until the issues were sorted. Ford says that manufacturing issues from its supplier SK On had caused some trucks to be built with defective batteries, but that was all sorted after a few weeks.
According to Tim Bartz, those fires didn’t affect the demand or confidence too much for interested parties, aside from delaying the fulfillment of orders. The real detriment to the F-150 Lightning’s buyers’ confidence is far less complicated.
The Ford F-150 Lightning is just too expensive.
“What we’re seeing is that we are having a lot of customers just canceling theirs,” said Bartz, podcaster and internet sales manager at Long McArthur Ford in Salina, Kansas. He explained that of the 135 or so reservations he’d received, about 40 reservation holders have canceled. “Ford advertised a $40,000 electric vehicle, and that attracted a lot of people. Now we’ve seen price increases, and those people are like, ‘I’m out,’” said Bartz via phone call.
“What we’re seeing is that we are having a lot of customers just canceling theirs.”
It isn’t hard to find Reddit or Twitter posts of once-excited F-150 Lightning hopefuls canceling their orders after the resultant sticker shock of the truck’s price jump. This user opted to cancel their F-150 Lightning and buy a Chevrolet Bolt EV. The Lightning’s new price and resultant payment were just too much to swallow.
Initially, when the F-150 Lightning was announced for 2022, Ford did advertise a price of $39,975, not including destination fees. That was for a base model Ford F-150 Lightning Pro good for 230 miles of range. The larger 320-mile extended-range battery could be had for in the $65,000 range, a price that attracted a lot of interested buyers — so many that Ford closed the reservation books after 200,000. (Ford spokesperson Jason Camp forwarded a request for comment to North American communications director Mike Levine, who never responded.)
Photo by Nilay Patel /The Verge
However, a reservation is not the same as an order. Ford planned to stagger the method in which it would allow truck hopefuls to actually place an order by inviting reservation holders in groups to place a deposit and officially build their trucks. Placing an order would lock in whatever price the truck was that day. Yet, that didn’t mean Ford couldn’t change the price between the truck’s original announcement and when a reservation holder would officially be invited to place an order.
That’s what happened to Wil Morisse, the owner of the EV enthusiast site F The Pump. He was able to snag an abandoned dealer allocation of a 2022 standard-range, Lariat-trimmed F-150 Lightning. However, this was sort of a stop-gap; he was already on the reservation list for a Lariat-trimmed F-150 Lightning in Extended Range form, equipped with the larger battery. This truck would tide him over; then he’d trade up to his ideal truck when it was built and delivered.
Morisse says he reserved the truck on May 1st, 2021. He was under the impression that his ideal truck would be about $74,000.
“Ford advertised a $40,000 electric vehicle, and that attracted a lot of people. Now we’ve seen price increases, and those people are like, ‘I’m out.’”
“By the time I was given a chance to order, it was October 2022,” he said in a direct message conversation. “Delivery was pushed back until April 2023. Pricing had gone up to $89,000, and they removed a bunch of options like bed scales, heated steering wheel, and more.” The higher price meant that his goal truck no longer qualified for any tax credits from the Inflation Reduction Act. At that price, his ideal truck didn’t make much sense, so he rejected the vehicle he ordered.
After a little over a year of sales, price changes have seen the price of the Lightning rise dramatically. A base F-150 Lightning Pro starts at $59,974 — a whopping $20,000 higher than the original advertised price.
“Customers tell me that they were looking to get in at that $40,000 truck, but now that’s $60,000, and you can’t even get that truck since they’re sold out of them. Now you’ll have to pay $65,000 minimum; that’s just a whole different level,” said Bartz.
Although he and his salesman have tried to mitigate that, at the end of the day, that’s a huge price jump. A buyer interested in a $40,000 or $50,000 truck might not be able to make the substantial jump in price and associated payments for a truck that sits in the $60,000 range.
Some reservation holders have succumbed to sticker shock, opting to abandon their reservation of the pricer F-150 Lightning trims. Zach Westrum, a sales manager at Granger Ford in Granger, Iowa concurs. “The price changes have priced some people out of the market because there have been so many bumps. That has affected our reservation to order to delivery take rate on the Lightning without question,” he wrote.
A base F-150 Lightning Pro starts at $59,974 — a whopping $20,000 higher than the original advertised price
The Inflation Reduction Act also throws a huge wrench in the F-150’s sales, too. The new price cap rule means that trucks must clock in under $80,000 to qualify for tax incentives. That means about half of the Ford F-150 lineup no longer qualifies for the $7,500 tax credit. The extended-range XLT model and standard-range Lariat trims easily pass the $80,000 threshold with minimal options. The extended-range Lariat and Platinum don’t qualify at all. The $59,974 Pro trim is completely sold out for 2023. If you didn’t place an order for a Lightning way back in 2022, there’s no chance you’ll ever get that $40,000 electric truck.
Still, demand for the truck remains strong. It’s just that it seems like Ford is more interested in scheduling and building the higher-trimmed Lariat and Platinum models. Those models have come to the dealership lots quicker, said Bartz. By comparison, the lower-trimmed XLT and Pro models have been slower to be built and shipped to dealerships. Ford only recently announced has it is boosting production of the XLT and Pro trims. Buyers can get a higher-trimmed truck more quickly, but at more than $90,000 for the top-of-the-line Platinum trim, those higher-priced models appeal to folks who are likely in a totally different tax bracket. The availability of a $7,500 credit won’t mean much to whether or not they want the truck.
This speaks heavily to how trucks, especially electric trucks, are increasingly marketed as luxury family haulers and less of a utilitarian tool. Rivian recently completely dropped and canceled orders for its lowest trims of the R1S and R1T, making it start at a $75,000 minimum. Top-trimmed gas-powered full-size trucks can easily and quickly enter the six-figure range, and yet, auto manufacturers continue to build and market variants of those very expensive trucks.
The F-150 Lightning is a very impressive truck. Morisse is pleased with his standard-range F-150 Lightning, and he was “pretty bummed” that he had to reject his dream truck. Bartz concurs; despite the price changes and production delays, he finds that owners are very satisfied. Bartz hopes that the LFP batteries that made it into the 2023 Mustang Mach-E will reach the F-150 Lightning and bring prices back down to a reasonable level.