Ford’s $90,000 Lightning Cripples Sales

The Ford Motor Co. (NYSE: F) plan was to use its installed base of millions of gasoline-powered F-150s as a large pool of potential buyers for its electric F-150 Lightning. The Lightning was competitively priced, which means it had another advantage. Some of the support of Ford’s share price was based on this strategy, as the leading edge of the transformation of the company into an electric vehicle (EV) powerhouse. Sharp increases in the price of the Lightning may undermine those plans.

Ford’s public relations executives like to bury bad news in their press releases. A prime example is the latest one, which yells, “FORD F-150 LIGHTNING STANDARD RANGE INCREASED TO EPA-ESTIMATED 240 MILES; INDUSTRY-FIRST PRO TRAILER HITCH ASSIST NOW AVAILABLE; ORDER BANKS RE-OPEN WITH UPDATED PRICING.” The practice is embarrassing. The important part of the news was that the price of the pickup would rise by thousands of dollars because of component costs.

Ford will honor the old prices for people if they have orders awaiting delivery.

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The new price makes the Lightning expensive by full-sized pickup standards and could thus harm demand, and perhaps harm it significantly. The top of the line Platinum Extended Package will now cost $96,874. The lowest priced Pro will cost $46,974. (Some Ford dealers have been accused of increasing prices beyond those Ford allows.)

William Clay Ford Jr., Ford’s executive board chair, told The New York Times that “If this launch doesn’t go well, we can tarnish the entire franchise.” He likened the launch to “betting the company.” As Ford increases the price of the Lightning by such a huge sum, the head of Ford’s worries may be about to come true.

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