The Anti-Lightning

  • September 20, 2023

There is a reason why the Lightning – the battery-powered version of Ford’s F-150 pickup – isn’t selling very well.

It’s sitting – untethered – in my driveway as I type this.

It is another variant of the F-150. One that Ford can’t build copies of fast enough to keep up with demand for it.

It is one that Ford isn’t losing $60,000 per “sale” on, as is reportedly the case as regards the Lightning.

It is the F-150 Raptor R.

It is the anti-Lightning.

It is the kind of truck Ford ought to make more of – because it is what lots of people want very much to buy (using their own money) as opposed to what they’re being told they ought to buy by the federal government and what the government is forcing Ford (and every other car company) to make, irrespective of what people want.

Normally, it is kind of the point of the exercise – when you’re trying to sell something – to focus on making what makes rather than loses money.

But Ford only makes a relative handful of Raptors, which are profitable. Which is kind of like Starbucks only making a little coffee.

Meanwhile, Ford is is trying to make as many Lightnings as can be pushed off the assembly lines, no matter the fact that they are idling  – so to speak – on the lots of dealers who can’t find people willing to buy them. And while they’re “idling,” they are also drawing – as in current; if you leave a battery-powered device just sitting for several days, when you get around to driving it, you will find it is like leaving a vehicle with an engine actually idling for a few hours in that there will be less “gas” in the “tank.”

No such issues with the Raptor.

You never have to plug it in, so you don’t have to wait. Or waste. It is ready whenever you are, no rigmarole required.

And if you want one of these, you will probably have to get in line – and take a number. You will probably not get a discount, either. Ford needs to make money on these so as to make up for the money it is losing “selling” the Lightning. Which it recently began trying to sell for less, but not really.

Ford lowered the base price of its battery powered device to $49,995 – which is almost $10k less than the price Ford original promised it would ask for one of these before it raised the asking price by more than $10k, to try to recover some of its losses. But then people stopped buying. Ford did what is usually done when a product isn’t selling. It tried discounting. After raising the price, thrice (in just 12 months) it tried lowering it.

But the catch is that if you want to be able to drive this device even 240 miles (maybe, assuming it’s not too cold outside and assuming you’re not carrying anything heavy in the bed or pulling it behind you) you will need to spend at least $64,995. That is the price of the XLT trim ($54,995) which you must buy in order to be able to buy the optional “long range” (332 miles, maybe) battery for $10,000 extra.

The Raptor costs even more – $107,350. But it comes standard with 450 miles of highway range (360 in the city) notwithstanding it is powered by a 700 horsepower supercharged 5.2 liter V8 engine. It is a maximum performance truck and yet it is still a far more practical truck than the battery-powered device Ford is trying (and failing) to sell to people as a practical truck.

Because, of course, it isn’t.

Even with its optional “long range” battery, the Lightning still puts its prospective owner in the position of having to spend time thinking about, planning for and actually waiting around for the truck to be useful for work again. People who work do not have time for that because their time is money and one generally doesn’t make money waiting at “fast” chargers to be able to get back to working. Making matters worse, if you actually try to use the Lightning for work – as in hauling/pulling things – you will spend even more time waiting and not making money because work (towing/hauling) saps the range.

The Raptor R, on the other hand, isn’t meant to be a working man’s truck.

It is the highest-performance of the F-truck that Ford has ever made. It is designed to go very fast and go over just about anything. And yet, it can be used as a work truck – because it is a much more capable truck and because it isn’t tethered to a cord and does not take more than about five minutes to refill its tank (no matter how fast you drain it) you and be ready for more fun.

Or work.

It is everything, in sum, that the Lightning isn’t and that is why it sells while the Lightning costs.

Ford is well aware of the fact and – in saner times – would immediately stop making what doesn’t make money because not enough people are wanting to pay for it and would make more of what people clearly do want and are willing to pay top dollar for, using their own dollars.

But we live in crazy times. Ford has to pretend that losers are “winners” – no matter how much it costs ($4.5 billion, so far).

It is like the vehicular special olympics wherein everyone gets a trophy and feels good about trying.

. . .

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