General Motors isn't alone in its weariness of the short-term EV future, as Ford announces another shift slashed at its Rouge Electric Vehicle Center.
Instead of manufacturing Ford F-150 Lightnings, executives in Dearborn are focusing on hybrid and ICE F-150 production, as well as Bronco and Ranger output.
With an all-new Ranger recently released and Bronco sales up year-over-year, Ford thinks a focus on ICE SUVs and trucks will keep its first-quarter numbers trending positively.
Automakers are starting to sound like a broken record as of late. From delayed production to revised investments, automakers are re-evaluating their short-term plans for electric vehicles. And Ford is joining the mix, as it announces plans to slow production of its electric pickup truck, the Ford F-150 Lightning.
This is not the first time Ford has altered production quotas for the Lightning. Just this summer, Ford said it would triple its annual production rate in response to falling raw material costs. However, as electric vehicles sit on dealership lots, Ford is following manufacturers like General Motors in truncating production plans.
Starting April 1, F-150 Lightning production will be down to one shift at Ford's Michigan Rouge Electric Vehicle Center. This follows the trimming of an additional shift last October, down from three shifts over the summer. By the numbers, that's about 1600 F-150 Lightnings per week, down from Ford's previous claim of 3200 units per week.
Curiously, F-150 Lightning sales in 2023 reflected a year-over-year increase of 55% over 2022. That's about 24,165 F-150 Lightnings sold in 2023, though that only represents 3.2% of the 750,789 F-Series trucks sold overall. Even if battery material costs continue decreasing, Ford can make more money by building more ICE trucks instead.
This is exactly what the Dearborn-based company is doing, according to Jim Farley, Ford President and CEO. "We are taking advantage of our manufacturing flexibility to offer customers choices while balancing our growth and profitability," said Farley.
Around 1400 United Auto Workers' members will be affected by these changes, with 700 of them transitioning to roles in Ford's Michigan Assembly Plant in Wayne. The remaining 700 employees will be placed in other roles at the Rouge Complex or other southeast Michigan facilities, according to Ford.
But Ford isn't just hoping to capitalize on strong interest in ICE F-150s. In fact, Ford plans to create nearly 900 new jobs in the coming months, all in the name of Ranger and Bronco production. With these 900 new hires, Ford will add a third assembly crew at the Wayne Assembly Plant to meet demand for the Bronco and Ranger.
That means Michigan Assembly will go from producing vehicles five days a week to seven days a week, relying on three crews across two shifts. "The company is moving nimbly across its global footprint to capitalize on its balanced lineup and serve customers with the right mix of gas-powered, hybrid, and electric vehicles, while optimizing financial returns," the release reads.
What all that investor-centric language really says is that Ford wants the Bronco and Ranger to be particularly profitable and soon. The Bronco family of SUVs was up 8% year-over-year, though most of that increase can be attributed to the Escape-based Bronco Sport (up 28% year-over-year).
In fact, true Bronco model sales were down nearly 10% in 2023. The Ranger had an even worse showing last year, down 43% year-over-year with only 32,334 units sold. The decrease likely stems from tooling changes in the Wayne plant in preparation for an all-new Ranger set to launch later this year. Ford is hoping a makeover can turn this trend around.
Is the era of midsize trucks coming to an end? Or will models like the Toyota Tacoma and Ford Ranger keep the segment alive? Please share your thoughts below.