She remembered being drawn to the Batmobile and the Mystery Machine
June 6, 2021 10:19 PM   Subscribe

How the Ford F-150 Lightning's Chief Engineer Linda Zhang Brought the World an Electric Pickup - "Zhang came to the U.S. when she was eight years old without knowing any English. Now she's the brains behind the Ford F-150 Lightning."
posted by kliuless (150 comments total) 19 users marked this as a favorite
 
Not even a truck person yet I want one of these. Nice plus reading this story.
posted by filtergik at 12:17 AM on June 7 [1 favorite]


I'd like to add a bit of context to her extraordinary story: in "legacy" corporations like Ford, GM or Toyota (I have friends in each of those companies), the culture is extremely different to most modern firms that people would have experienced. It's shaped by the type of business they're in - they routinely commit to multi-billion dollar investments that begin generating revenue 2-3 years later, and breaking even maybe 7 years later. This breeds a certain kind of long term and conservative thinking, and is a reason they've been struggling in the kind of world we have now where we expect to get a new and faster iPhone every year.

Their retention numbers are really good: something like 75% graduate retention at the 10 year mark. By policy, external hires at the management level are rare - this means from the get go, the company looks at a batch of fresh graduates knowing one of them MUST be the chief engineer, because externally hiring one isn't an option, and they construct their career management plan accordingly. One company sent so many staff to do their MBA that in the end, the university themselves sent lecturers to the company to teach the classes there...

I like to joke that these legacy companies have to hire naïve grads and make sure to indoctrinate them, treat them well and retain them without letting them find out how modern companies run, because anyone who has worked in a modern company will find the internal culture there incomprehensible and probably leave...

That's a really long and roundabout way of saying, it's extraordinary how many glass ceilings she had to break to get to where she is now. Huge, slow moving companies run by committee are often the least likely to take a risk on someone who doesn't fit the typical "type" of person the Chief Engineer is supposed to be. I've worked with 4 different Chief Engineers of various vehicle programs, they were all old white men.
posted by xdvesper at 12:29 AM on June 7 [51 favorites]


The F-150 Lightning sounds promising, and at least the brand positioning seems on point. Their reveal trailer more or less sums it up: Ford isn't selling you an "electric" F-150. You're here because you want the most capable F-150 possible, and it just happens to be electric. Their advertised capability (two way charging station that would allow the car to power your house for several days) is a direct dig at Tesla who threatened to void the warranties of anyone who tried doing that with their vehicles, making it clearer that the F-150 is about capability, while Tesla is about image.

This capability was extremely useful during the Texas winter storm: Ford instructed dealers to loan out available F-150 PHEV vehicles so people could power their homes with them. Users could power their homes for 72 hours straight consuming just a quarter tank of gas, by hooking up the 30 amp output to their home circuit using a transfer switch. This is in contrast to a regular diesel backup generator, which users had to refill twice a day in the freezing cold, and they often only had one spare can of diesel anyway, which means they only lasted 24 hours total. Besides having a larger tank, the PHEV is also simply more efficient - it uses the 1.5kWh battery to power the inverter, supplying only exactly the power you needed. The engine would come online periodically to recharge the battery. In a diesel generator, it has to run continuously, and can't throttle low enough during periods of low demand (inverter type) so it wastes a lot of energy: or worse, it is a non-inverter type, in which case it runs at 3600rpm continuously to supply the AC sine wave, so you lose huge amounts of energy through engine frictional losses.

Ford is very late (almost the latest?) the this EV thing but at least they're doing something different. Their Mustang Mach E was also unique in that they decided to match Tesla spec for spec - I haven't seen any other manufacturer do that. Because, when you think about it, electric vehicles are pretty homogenized (it's an electric motor, which are all the same, and everyone buys the same batteries from LG or Panasonic, it's just the battery management software and cooling that is different) so if you were looking for something cool, you'd pick Tesla over GM at the same price and spec. That's why no one has really tried to go spec for spec and price for price with Tesla, not even the Audi E-Tron or Mercedes EQC matches their Tesla equivalents for range. Ford's decision to directly spec-match the Tesla Model Y is basically going, well, for exactly the same price and spec, you could get a Tesla Model Y or a Mustang Mach E, which one holds more emotional appeal - and betting that enough people would choose a Mustang. This year, Tesla market share fell from 81% to 69%, and the Mach-E was almost the sole reason for it.
posted by xdvesper at 12:54 AM on June 7 [42 favorites]


MKBHD's recent video on the F-150 Lightning is a good intro on its features for non-truckheads.
posted by fairmettle at 1:20 AM on June 7 [8 favorites]


The first thing I see as I open the article is her standing by the vehicle, its front grill almost up to her shoulder, in a way that cars aren't in not-America. If she were in front of it, the driver would barely see her.

America, are you alright? Because your dominance-projecting cars do come across as a cry for help.
posted by acb at 1:29 AM on June 7 [55 favorites]


You can plug power tools directly into the truck. People could get used to that, I predict you won't be able to sell a truck without this is five years.
posted by adept256 at 1:44 AM on June 7 [27 favorites]


America, are you alright? Because your dominance-projecting cars do come across as a cry for help.

It cracks me up that this is the most liked comment so far on an article that has nothing to do with this sort of thing.

I grew up on a farm in rural Arkansas. My first car was a Bronco that was bigger than the truck she's standing in front of. Vehicles were built and designed for labor, and transporting large volumes of stuff. That this influenced the esthetic that people seek is surprising? As the article points out, 563 horsepower and 775 pound-feet of torque... sure some people will buy this for non-work reasons, but, uh, that is a farm truck. You're probably not going to see a sleek Tesla sedan hauling a few tons of bailed hay.

I live in the UK now, and someone in my neighborhood has an ol' beater F-250 from the late '90s. I swoon a little bit every time I walk by it. I would totally drive one of these electric beasts.
posted by late afternoon dreaming hotel at 2:34 AM on June 7 [21 favorites]


The front really looks like someone took two cars and mushed them together.
posted by Foci for Analysis at 2:59 AM on June 7 [1 favorite]


I suppose they want it to look like a F150, but that shoulder-height bonnet conceals empty space. It's just storage under there. Which is fantastic, I especially like that there's a basin with a drain. It doesn't need to be there though. They've sold plenty of trucks without front storage before. Just for the sake of visibility, they could have given it a slope.

Then it wouldn't look like an F150. So to preserve the brand they've kept the redundant engine bay. But you can put ice in it and keep your beer there!
posted by adept256 at 3:21 AM on June 7 [7 favorites]


Please don't drive it in any area where there may be children playing on the streets, though.
posted by acb


At least the F-150 comes standard with automatic emergency braking from 2020 onwards so I might trust an F150 over some random car...

But point taken, these SUVs and trucks are a plague on our land, and it's honestly not just the US where this is happening. Ironically, I understand that some of this is due to CAFE, where each vehicle gets a "quota" for much fuel it can consume, and larger vehicles get a larger quota (the rural lobby, basically farmers who needed work trucks didn't want to be disadvantaged by city folk who wrote the laws) - which ironically means that in some cases, building a smaller vehicle drops the fuel use quota by more than the actual fuel use goes down, so manufacturers are penalized for building smaller vehicles. This is theorized to be one reason why compact trucks (Tacoma, Ranger, Canyon) have never done as well as the full sized pickup trucks (F-150, Ram) because they would have resulted in companies needing to pay penalties. The current standards (in the wiki article I linked) show that in 2021 a compact truck needs to achieve 31mpg while a full sized pickup only needs to achieve 25mpg - a full 20% difference - while in the real world, the difference is really about 10% or so, so corporations are actually penalized for every compact pick up they build instead of a full sized pickup.

Of course, corporations are happy with the current state of affairs too, because margins are undoubtedly higher on full sized pickups...
posted by xdvesper at 3:35 AM on June 7 [11 favorites]


Then it wouldn't look like an F150. So to preserve the brand they've kept the redundant engine bay. But you can put ice in it and keep your beer there!

This is true. It’s also true that auto designers (and auto consumers) are just getting just getting started exploring the possibilities provided by these new platforms. Right now a frunk with a drain is a strange new use for a space that formerly housed the engine. It won’t be long before designers begin building new and more interesting uses for it (maybe even eliminate it!) as we all adjust our expectations.
posted by notyou at 5:25 AM on June 7 [5 favorites]


America, are you alright? Because your dominance-projecting cars do come across as a cry for help.

+1 this seems like a vehicle designed to murder pedestrians. But, y'know, greenly.

Boy, I'll tell ya, few things make me more certain that someone is a sad victim of testosterone poisoning than attempting to defend the operation of these killer machines on the public streets of civic communities.

Aaaand... my latest example of Metafilter not having a clue about regular people. i suppose someone will come along and scold me for this, but the high and mighty MF folk regularly exhibit not only ignorance, but disdain for the wants and needs of the regular folks... who are poorly represented here. Average people don't casually drift to conservative politics. They're pushed by snobs, who are unable or unwilling to consider that other people have differences as simple as the kind of vehicle they want or need to purchase. One simply cannot sit one one's hands and refrain from making a snide and irrelevant comment. Instead, one must indulge in their own Joe Wilson "You Lie!" moment, solidifying your reputation among the faithful here. Which, of course, means progress for us all. Though probably not.

Indulge your self righteous superiority at your leisure. And at all our expense.
posted by 2N2222 at 5:30 AM on June 7 [43 favorites]


Pickups are on North American streets for the foreseeable future, and they are producing an awful lot of carbon emissions. Anyone who supports harm reduction policies like safe injection sites should be able to support harm reduction policies like electrifying (unnecessarily large and dangerous) pickup trucks.
posted by saturday_morning at 5:36 AM on June 7 [9 favorites]


Ford's website is enfuriating to use.

I can't even find out how long it is.
posted by groda at 5:37 AM on June 7


I am pretty sure we're all regular people, it's just some of us understand externalities better than others.
posted by seanmpuckett at 5:40 AM on June 7 [22 favorites]


I’m totally sold and plan to buy a Lightning. I need a truck for my work. A full sized truck that is faster to 60 than a sports car, has 300 miles of electric range, and is as efficient as my compact ICE car in absolute terms, has a 100K battery warranty, and can plow my driveway, tow a trailer, and power my house in a blackout is a sale for Ford. I honestly see this as my last vehicle. It would replace the need to own two vehicles for me, one a fuel efficient car and the other a gas guzzler truck I absolutely need as both a pro musician and an amateur farmer.

With the tax rebate this comes in at less than the price of a nicely equipped Honda Accord. It’s a no brainer for some of us, and it will sell like hot cakes. As a longtime Ford truck buff, I’m excited about it.

Moral judgments about the size of other peoples’ vehicles usually strike me funny. How do you know I don’t need a truck and have you ever had to haul a full band PA system or 1500 pounds of gravel in a hatchback?

My car gets 40+ mpg. I’ve stopped flying for all but critically important purposes, and I do my best to minimize my footprint. But some of us need a truck.
posted by spitbull at 5:43 AM on June 7 [19 favorites]


but the high and mighty MF folk regularly exhibit not only ignorance, but disdain for the wants and needs of the regular folks...

I grew up in a rural village and every cousin who is a farmer drives a hatchback or a small “euro van” to their work machines. I asked my uncle why he sold his station wagon: he said it was too big and wastes gas.

In the EU I mostly see city people driving huge SUVs and pickups. Usually they’re the ones forcing my little car off the road and into the dirt on skinny roads, because why scuff up a €70k off-road vehicle? That would be absurd.

I don’t think city/suburban folk complain about farm or construction equipment being utilised for farm or construction work ... Have a look at the Ford trailer for this truck: it’s obviously being marketed to suburban and city dwellers (and people who haul helicopters (what a joke)).

It’s perfectly valid to question the use of these huge trucks when 90% of buyers are commuting, alone, with no equipment in the truck bed.

One could argue that, if these trucks were utilised for what they’re built for, there’d be no need to electrify them at all.
posted by romanb at 5:53 AM on June 7 [12 favorites]


The F-150 Lightning is an absolute game changer. I'll highlight just one example already mentioned above: the ability to run power tools off its internal battery. Sure lots of trucks have inverters, but that will soon be a "killer app" that all work trucks will be expected to have. And the price point?! Rivian and the Cyber Truck and all those things are just noise compared to the F-150. Ford is moving the entire automotive industry with this vehicle.

I'm not going to buy a Lightning because I can't imagine owning a full size truck. (I could talk for days about my distain for the design of modern full-size trucks and the culture that seems to surround them where I live.) Design, size, price, so much about full-size trucks doesn't work for my life. But I don't know how anyone could look at this electric F-150—which Wiki says has been the best selling vehicle in the world every year since 1981—and read this inspiring story of its chief engineer, and then plunk down some spicy take about testosterone poisoned pedestrian murdermachines. Way to ignore the whole actual story.
posted by cyclopticgaze at 6:00 AM on June 7 [17 favorites]


Super cool person and vehicle, thanks for posting. I am in the general market for these and have been fairly vexed by the electric options to date.

(But the umbrage at anyone remarking on the weirdness and toxicity of contemporary American truck culture seems a bit much? That's inevitably also part of the story here; Ford itself has played no small role in the evolution of trucks from getstuffdonemobiles to whatever they are now.)
posted by Not A Thing at 6:13 AM on June 7 [8 favorites]


How do you know I don’t need a truck and have you ever had to haul a full band PA system

How many amps does your PA draw? The truck could power it! Gig anywhere a truck can go.
posted by adept256 at 6:15 AM on June 7 [6 favorites]


I'm excited by the F-150 Lightning mostly because it signals such a bold move from a huge manufacturer on its bread-and-butter product. I don't like full-size trucks and can't imagine ever buying one, but I've been reading with glee about the Lightning because maybe its tech will trickle down to medium-sized and [fingers crossed] light duty trucks that I might feasibly purchase one day. Living in the US, that day obviously is not today since there aren't any new small trucks for sale. But that might be changing. Ford is working on the "compact" size Maverick which will be smaller than the Ranger. A Maverick-sized truck with a lot of the Lightning's advertised ability? Sign me up! (Only thing I'd be more excited about would be a full-sized station wagon.)
posted by cyclopticgaze at 6:23 AM on June 7 [11 favorites]


A Maverick-sized truck with a lot of the Lightning's advertised ability? Sign me up! (Only thing I'd be more excited about would be a full-sized station wagon.)

Seconded! Why oh why won't Ford pay attention to the all-important Metafilter market segment?
posted by mcstayinskool at 6:30 AM on June 7 [2 favorites]


People who know about Ford stuff: when we see this in the article:

During her time at Ford, Zhang has worked on various product lines. She had a hand in both the design and manufacturing elements of the Ford Explorer and Escape/Kuga and had a chance to work with Ford powertrains as well. But her real passion has always been electrification.

what are the implications? Were these successful initiatives? What is the author saying about the relative breadth and depth of Zhang's expertise?
posted by brainwane at 6:31 AM on June 7


Seconded! Why oh why won't Ford pay attention to the all-important Metafilter market segment?

There are dozens of us! DOZENS!
posted by cyclopticgaze at 6:32 AM on June 7 [7 favorites]


Also, people who know a lot about the US automotive industry: how unusual is it to see a woman, an immigrant, and/or a person of East Asian descent in this position of authority at one of the big US automakers? Does your experience jibe with xdvesper's? Is this something that, for old-timers, reverberates with echoes from back when Japanese automakers were, like, the enemy?
posted by brainwane at 6:35 AM on June 7


If we are getting all radical disruptor style with our vehicles I would propose something more like a Millenium Falcon cockpit or WWII bomber style front end with mega visibility all around.
posted by Meatbomb at 6:39 AM on June 7 [2 favorites]


How many amps does your PA draw? The truck could power it! Gig anywhere a truck can go.

Oh believe me I already calculated this, and yes we can indeed run the band on the truck. Another game changer.

Not to mention it has MORE storage capacity than a gas truck because of the useful front trunk storage area.

My current Ford-built truck has in excess of 230k miles and 23 years under its belt. I can see making this one last for the rest of my life.
posted by spitbull at 6:58 AM on June 7 [7 favorites]


Not to mention it has MORE storage capacity than a gas truck because of the useful front trunk storage area.

That does look like a lot of extra space. To go from "Yeah, that area is filled with parts that make the trunk move" to "Yeah, that space is where all my tools go" is really something.
posted by gwint at 7:08 AM on June 7 [5 favorites]


I would propose something more like a Millenium Falcon cockpit or WWII bomber style front end with mega visibility all around.

What about a separate soundproof bubble dome for the kids?
posted by zamboni at 7:09 AM on June 7 [7 favorites]


One could argue that, if these trucks were utilised for what they’re built for, there’d be no need to electrify them at all.

I would need to see the math on that assertion. Even just limiting the calculus to work vehicles in fleets, that’s a shit ton of trucks burning dinosaur juice at the moment.

As a working musician I have to haul around 1000-1200 pounds of gear mostly within a 100 mile radius of my home, every week. I can fit a bare minimum rig in my Mazda hatchback for some gigs, but even that is 700 or so pounds of stuff and it’s tough on the little car’s engine and suspension to haul that 85 miles, as well as lowering my mpg from 40 to around 30 on the highway. My current compact truck gets 22mpg on the highway with the full PA rig. So an 8mpg delta and the wear and tear costs on my car from loading it to the gills and the truck starts to make more sense.

But a 300 mile electric range would get me to almost anywhere I play and back home again with room to spare. Plus having room to sleep in the damn cab is nice.

It’s the rare weekend in spring when I don’t return from my weekly rounds with my current truck loaded down with 1000-1500 pounds of soil, gravel, mulch, or compost. Hauling that stuff in a car takes multiple trips for the same load and tears up the interior of my car, of which I’m rather fond.

We get a foot or more of snow several times a winter and I live on a mountainside with gravel road access. My current 4wd truck has the clearance for that when my compact would be utterly bogged down. The Lightning has more clearance and electric 4wd should be a torque monster for winter driving or plowing (I have a long, steep gravel driveway).

Our power goes out several times a year in storms. My gas generator burns about 5 gallons a day to keep it powered up, for almost three days at the longest last year. A Lightning in the driveway, fully charged, would replace that.

And you can keep Rivian, Lucid, Tesla, and other $80-100k entrants. This is an F-150. It’s the gold standard for a pickup truck and has been for 50 years. For $40k nicely equipped, $50k to beat the world.

No, one should not commute alone in a full sized truck in an ideal world. But owning multiple vehicles has its own environmental costs too. I have to make a 220 mile round trip commute once or twice a week from September to June. A 300 mile range electric truck as my only vehicle would necessitate doing that commute in the truck. But it would reduce the carbon footprint of building and disposing of a second compact and efficient vehicle, my current solution. I’m seeing carbon cost equivalency of 35-45mpg from the Lightning, making it about exactly as efficient as my compact ICE car is now. I plan to build a large solar array on my property within the next few years, at which point I can charge the vehicle from renewable energy a lot of the time.

No brainer. It’s just delightful to see the story of this vehicle and know that good old Ford has just eaten Tesla’s lunch.

I will miss hooning my little Mazda. It damn, the Lightning is remarkably faster too.
posted by spitbull at 7:21 AM on June 7 [12 favorites]


To add, Ford estimated range for the Lighting based on carrying a 1000 pound load. It’s quite possible range is significantly better when used as a commuter vehicle. So a full sized electric truck being used to carry one person to work and back is perhaps about as efficient as any ICE compact car on the road today, and more so than the ubiquitous ICE CUVs, or close enough to suggest aesthetics and politics are obscuring the benefits. Add in increasingly available renewable power generation and recalculate.
posted by spitbull at 7:28 AM on June 7 [2 favorites]


Yeah, that space is where all my tools go" is really something.

As the guy who carries $5000 worth of guitars in the camper top back of a Ranger extended cab, I can get three of them into the cab and locked up good. The frunk on the Lightning is also a game changer. Lockable storage abs you can’t see what’s inside, for those of us who haul smaller expensive things like the tools of our trades, is a big deal. So while that big unaerodynamic squared off front has its downsides, it has utility too.

The ecosystem of aftermarket parts and add ons for an F-150 is huge. By using the exact same form factor as a standard ICE or diesel model, they’ve made sure that plows, campers, winches, light bars, tool boxes, off road gear, tow hitches, and so much else just works across the entire lineup. That is a huge selling point for people who use trucks as trucks. And a big reason to doubt the utility of strange futuristic one-off designs like the Cybertruck. Yes it’s also macho poseur aesthetics meant to make the electric revolution seem less strange to a core market for the company. But if you own a $5000 plow rig that fits your current F-150, it will fit the Lightning too. That’s real math for large numbers of people, including those who plow for a living.
posted by spitbull at 7:47 AM on June 7 [14 favorites]


I live in suburban nowheresville.

The people who own F-150s around me are the sort of jackhole who buys a blackout package and puts a big Spartan logo on the hood with a flag mount in the bed and could "never" buy an electric vehicle because it'd couldn't fit the 180 sheets of plywood they need to carry every day of the week, every time they're not loaded with forty thousand pounds of gravel plus nine attack dogs and a generator.

(nb: they literally never put anything in the bed, I have no idea where these claimed sheets of plywood nor gravel are to be found, nor why the load requirements are always expressed in terms of plywood and gravel).

I am still impressed by this vehicle and kinda want one for myself (although I don't think I'll be splashing out on the blackout package or flag mount). They've done some very impressive work here -- they've clearly paid attention to fleet users (I kinda wish I could easily get the "pro" versions, tbh), and stating their range with a 1000lb load was a genius maneuver. Putting a drain in the frunk, also genius. If I had the design chops, I'd be trying to build an aftermarket part for the frunk that fits either Milwaukee or DeWalt tool cases so folks can just pop their PackOut trays right in there.

They're going to print money with these.
posted by aramaic at 7:51 AM on June 7 [11 favorites]


2n2222

you are wrong on the internet. the entire country is not a fascist wasteland because some guy on metafilter (correctly) calls out the ridiculousness of purposeless, giant, dangerous, completely optional lifestyle choices.

having more facts at hand, and giving a shit about where the society is going are positives in any culture.
posted by j_curiouser at 7:51 AM on June 7 [14 favorites]


As the article points out, 563 horsepower and 775 pound-feet of torque... sure some people will buy this for non-work reasons, but, uh, that is a farm truck. You're probably not going to see a sleek Tesla sedan hauling a few tons of bailed hay.

Well, no, that would be silly but something with the same drivetrain as a Tesla sedan is fully capable of pulling a couple tons of hay around -- it just needs a body that's designed to complement its function.

There's no reason for the Ford Lightning to have a big honking cliff for a "frunk" except that pickup truck body design was, in part, driven by the need for a big honking engine bay. That's just what a pickup truck looks like in the current market. It's going to take a couple product cycles for vehicle design and coach styling to catchup to the benefits of electric traction, similar to how it took a decade or two for early automobiles to evolve from a literal horseless carriage to what we'd recognize as a car.
posted by nathan_teske at 7:53 AM on June 7 [4 favorites]


anyway, a < 6' bed length is not a 'work truck'. kind of a silly storage area behind the ginormous cab.
posted by j_curiouser at 7:54 AM on June 7 [4 favorites]


What a wonderful story about an Asian woman succeeding in her career. And I support electrification of ALL kinds of vehicles. (Though I worry about how many folks seem to think once we check electrification off the list we'll have solved the transportation network issues in this country, when for most cities that is so far from the truth.) xdvesper, I especially appreciate the extra context from your early comment!

But I gotta take umbrage at the idea that people who walk and take transit and bike to work (i.e. people in cities; there are MILLIONS of us) or even just drive normal sized sedans aren't "regular people." Listen, my brother in law owns a construction-adjacent business where he needs to be able to carry a lot of equipment including a generator to his job sites. He's got a huge new pickup and I'm happy for him and what it means for his business. But I'm pretty sure he's literally never off-roading and his truck doesn't need to be as high off the ground and the front hood as tall as it is. He probably could just as easily do his job with a work van - maybe even more easily with a lower cargo area floor. But pickups are what's on the showroom floors, and on TV, and everywhere on the streets (he lives in Texas). So I would not pick a fight with him about his choice. We're all imperfect actors doing our best with what's in front of us.

If pointing out that the specific brand of American masculinity that leads to the arms race of pickup truck and SUV sizing is "out of touch" then fine, but what happens to a culture that is never allowed to examine itself? Even when its worst impulses are literally killing people?

I'm not telling folks like my brother in law that they are wrong for choosing the car that they did. I'm saying we need to adjust our systems (safety testing that includes the safety of those outside the vehicle, and road-use-related taxes, and better street design) to counter the externality-blind market that contributes to the dominant culture and marketing and design of both cars and the streets they drive on.
posted by misskaz at 8:00 AM on June 7 [11 favorites]


Counterpoint: the vast majority of “lifestyle choices” made by middle class and up Americans are “completely optional.” Or almost so. No one has to fly anywhere for vacations. Or heat their home to 75 degrees or cool it to 60. Many could live in denser cities with public transport. Or choose public transport now instead of driving. To be clear, these are good things and carbon waste reduction should be encouraged in all things, both at the core (how we zone for residential development, what propulsion technologies are in the market) and at the margins (this version of what I currently use, for whatever reason, is both way more efficient and cheap to own and ridiculously more capable). I’m down with criticizing other peoples’ lifestyle choices but like to be honest with myself about my own too. For years I lived in NYC and didn’t own a car at all. I chose not to remain there as I approach retirement. I choose to grow a lot of my own food.
I choose to limit air travel to research travel only (my job). I also choose vehicles based on favors other than efficiency bexause I’m a car buff and shade tree mechanic. By a global standard, it’s the rare American who can’t be accused of living a carbon-profligate lifestyle by some degree of choice. And I fully agree drastic change is needed and fast.

But politically we can’t even get our act together to stop a fascist coup in the US. Corporations are still enormously powerful. Driving is resurgently popular thanks to COVID, and has remained absurdly cheap thanks to huge subsidies. My familiarity with the universe in which a pickup truck is an unremarkable accoutrement of everyday life is such that I can say you won’t be scolding such people into driving Tesla Model3s any time soon, let alone taking the bus. So this incremental shift at the margins is better than where we were before it was announced.

Half full, half empty, either way we are indeed circling the drain and the “externalities” are baked in costs we are already facing. This small step will have significant ramifications at scale. And it gets there almost without ruffling the political feathers of “lifestyle choice” politics (with the mefi crowd as an exception, to be sure).

No one is predicting this truck will be anything but a giant smash hit for Ford. They’ve lapped the competition and done so leveraging their reputation for truck quality, which was their major late-mover advantage and the sort of thing American car companies have repeatedly screwed up lately. Small victories are still victories in my view, and in this case the appeal is viscerally obvious to me, despite also hating the bro-dozer culture of suburban commuters in pristine blinged out new one ton trucks with enough juice to pull a large yacht up a mountain.

It’s the guys with the yachts who are the biggest problem.
posted by spitbull at 8:09 AM on June 7 [9 favorites]


Honestly, if I could take transit to work it would make even more sense to have a truck if I had a personal vehicle at all, since I'd pretty much be only using it for driving up into the mountains and camping and the occasions where I need to haul large things, rather than using my vehicle primarily for commuting, where the more efficiently I can get me and one bag to a place, the better.
posted by Zalzidrax at 8:10 AM on June 7 [5 favorites]


>MKBHD's recent video on the F-150 Lightning is a good intro

I liked how he noticed the warning sticker not to use the bed outlets in a closed space was inapplicable

>dominance-projecting cars do come across as a cry for help

last year it hit me (not literally thankfully) that a lot of trucks are being driven around by man-children yes.
posted by Heywood Mogroot III at 8:24 AM on June 7 [1 favorite]


Give me an EV version of the older-sized Ford Ranger, please. It blows my mind that hasn't already been a hugely successful market. I guess the "bigger is better" truck culture is unstoppable at this point.
posted by Godspeed.You!Black.Emperor.Penguin at 8:26 AM on June 7 [13 favorites]


The “never drive it off road” standard is a trivial one to me. Pickup trucks are not ideal “off road” vehicles — unless one means on open terrain or gravel and dirt roads count — precisely because of their large size. High clearance has functional purposes besides running off road.

Many of those purposes (towing in particular) are also not widely deployed by people who buy high clearance vehicles. But the same could be said of CUVS, which are mostly just compact cars lifted an inch or two or on big wheels, at a 5-15% penalty in fuel efficiency. So a Subaru Crosstrek that never goes “off road” (which I’ll bet is the vast majority of them) is also wasting energy for aesthetic and lifestyle purposes compared to an Impreza that sits an inxh and a half lower. And neither really “need” full time AWD either, another fuel-sucking luxury for most drivers who buy them.

I’m not arguing *against* the critique of the “rugged” arms race in automotive design. It’s stupid and suicidal in the big rational picture. Absolutely. But as with many things, we tend to scapegoat particular offenses while ignoring our own. I’ll bet many Mefites drive Rav4s and Crosstreks. Neither is necessary for most purposes people use them for.
posted by spitbull at 8:26 AM on June 7 [6 favorites]


"I'm real happy for this lady and whatever but WHY IS TRUCK SO BIG?!?! "
posted by some loser at 8:31 AM on June 7 [2 favorites]


>I am still impressed by this vehicle and kinda want one for myself

yeah if I didn't have a day-one order for the Cybertruck this would be a viable alternative for my OTG camper doom mobile vs. Rivian etc.

Electric is important to me partially due to cheaper operating costs (2 miles/kWh @ 10c/kWh = 80mpg @ $4 gallon diesel cost) and lack of maintenance (an F-250 turbo-diesel's engine bay looks like a bomb went off in there while the electric F-150's engine bay is totally empty (!) . . . awesome 0 to 60 acceleration . . . what's not to like??
posted by Heywood Mogroot III at 8:38 AM on June 7 [1 favorite]


Give me an EV version of the older-sized Ford Ranger, please. It blows my mind that hasn't already been a hugely successful market. I guess the "bigger is better" truck culture is unstoppable at this point.

This is my dream too. I do fine with a 98 Ranger 4x4 now. However I believe we will see that within a few years. They had to start with the F-150 and get it right first. It was critical to staying in business. The current gas Ranger is a damn nice truck and getting popular again. (It’s as big as an F-150 of 20 years ago, to be sure, but again your Honda Civic is the size of a 20 year old Accord too). I would lay good money down that a downscaling of the Lightning to the Ranger is already underway. And it’s the one thing that would stop me from choosing the Lightning. I’m a Ranger buff. For my purposes — which do not require a greater than six foot bed, but I’d still assert are legit “work truck” uses — they’re the perfect size.

Having one that could hit 60mph in 5 seconds would be a total trip though. They are notoriously and even belovedly slow trucks historically. You get used to it and then you start to enjoy it.

Also if you do want to go “off road” on anything but prairie or desert, a lifted 4x4 Ranger beats any full-sized truck any time.
posted by spitbull at 8:41 AM on June 7 [3 favorites]


what are the implications? Were these successful initiatives? What is the author saying about the relative breadth and depth of Zhang's expertise?

Honestly the writer did a poor job. You could look up her LinkedIn. She's a generalist, having worked in multiple disciplines - what looks like Engineering, Manufacturing, Strategy, Finance, now back to Engineering. This is not atypical as these types of companies value breadth of knowledge and have the central planning authority to thread key talent through different departments, even different countries, something which self directed career development in most companies can't achieve. In fact, this tendency was perhaps taken too far during Jack Nasser's / Bill Ford's days, when Mullaly came on board from Boeing he made it clear he didn't want so much churn in the organization, but I guess old habits die hard.

I wouldn't take the success or failure of a product as indicative of anything: after all in management school we are repeatedly drilled with the idea that you measure performance, not the outcome, because outcomes are subject to huge, uncontrollable variables. You perform leadership, like an actor performing their role: you embody the right behaviours, and the right values, and you should win in the long run. If you manage to put together an impressive strategy that had a 99% chance of being right you should be rewarded for it, even if the dice falls the other way, because the company wants to see the same behaviours in the future.
posted by xdvesper at 9:06 AM on June 7 [1 favorite]


The Ford and GM career ladders are so different from other industries. I used to work for a guy who had an MBA from one of their programs and I remember learning how unusual it was for him to have left and how hard they tried to recruit him back. And yeah, the F150 Lightning looks like it will be an excellent and cost effective work truck.
posted by fedward at 9:09 AM on June 7


I would lay good money down that a downscaling of the Lightning to the Ranger is already underway.

Also worth noting: Ford is about to reveal a new compact pickup, supposedly a bit smaller than the current Ranger. One of the powertrain options is hybrid, so I'm sure Ford's thinking about how to electrify the Maverick too.

Regarding the article, it seems to be mostly a re-write of this Detroit Free Press article (republished in the Purdue Exponent). It goes into a bit more detail about Zhang's history, though you've read most of it in the OP article.
posted by chrominance at 9:17 AM on June 7 [2 favorites]


The key learning from this thread is we all need to make “frunk” happen
posted by Huffy Puffy at 9:23 AM on June 7 [10 favorites]


It's good to see Ford making real inroads into EV design, after the Focus was easily the worst of the compliance cars (seriously, even Fiat did a better job of that). No-one seems to want to go up against the Tesla supercharger network yet, so that seems like it'll remain a major competitive advantage for them for a while. Ford keeping their attention on the fleet market should minimise the downsides of the comparatively crappy public charger network during their initial rollout, and building a truck that looks like a truck instead of whatever the Cybertruck looks like seems like a solid design choice. Rivian must be worried.
posted by rhamphorhynchus at 9:27 AM on June 7 [1 favorite]


I'd just like to point out as a long-time MR2 driver that "frunk" has been a word for decades.

Also this truck is dope although I'm hoping its success trickles down to Ranger or Maverick-sized trucks. I generally drive the smallest car I can find that does what I need, but there are roads I'd like to go down here in Western NC that I don't because my car wouldn't survive the trip and honestly there are driveways all over Asheville that I have to stop and crawl into diagonally because just turning and driving normally results in my bumper plowing into the asphalt. The reason I don't buy an SUV or truck is primarily because I don't feel like I have the right to burn that much fuel just getting around. The right electric truck for the right price could win me over.
posted by The Monster at the End of this Thread at 9:34 AM on June 7 [4 favorites]


Put me on the reasonably sizedhigh performance electric pick up truck camp.



I like to joke that these legacy companies have to hire naïve grads and make sure to indoctrinate them, treat them well and retain them without letting them find out how modern companies run, because anyone who has worked in a modern company will find the internal culture there incomprehensible and probably leave...

I have seen this, we have a couple of people at work who started at automotive and aerospace companies. They loved the culture of a modern company and decided to come here, but 9 out of 10 people they refer do not like how we do things and reject the offer or, in 3 cases I have seen, work here for a couple of months and then get their old job back.

But the same can be said of "modern" companies. Big tech is full of naive recent graduates, there is constant indoctrination, a lot of training opportunities, weird career paths. The main difference is that there is no expectation for a long tenure, seniority, pension, etc...

Still, it makes me so happy that the spotlight is on an immigrant woman.

Some American companies I've worked with recently (won't name names, but if you live in the USA i'd say there is a 95% chance you own and use hardware or software built by them) go to great lengths to obfuscate the fact that critical parts of their products are built and designed by very good engineers and designers in third world countries with third world salaries and benefits.

Last year I worked with a team led by a Brazilian, with Mexican, Colombian, Egyptian and Pakistani engineers and designers, all working from Mexico. After 3 years of independent work, with most of the work done and tested except for some UX details, they were tasked with a three month "Knowledge Transfer" to a new (natural born American) manager and tech lead. The project was transferred to a US team in March this year, and in May the company published a press release about the new product, giving all credit to the US team.
posted by Dr. Curare at 9:39 AM on June 7 [3 favorites]


Won’t somebody please think of the poor put upon lifted truck dudes with their punisher stickers and thin blue line flags rolling coal at Priuses to ease their trauma from horrific metafilter bullying.

On topic: Good for her. It’s a great design. The “frunk” front trunk is genius and way more useful than similar attempts on Teslas. Being able to charge equipment is a huge win too. Elon should concentrate on his Model 2 compact and give up on the “cybertruck”.
posted by eagles123 at 9:48 AM on June 7 [3 favorites]


Ford has been working at getting women into head design/engineering roles for a while. The 93 Probe was the first car at Ford with a female design head.

you could get a Tesla Model Y or a Mustang Mach E, which one holds more emotional appeal - and betting that enough people would choose a Mustang. This year, Tesla market share fell from 81% to 69%, and the Mach-E was almost the sole reason for it.

One thing that is going to become obvious in the next decade is Tesla makes poor cars. Their success is fan boy and no other choice driven. IMO they will be lucky to survive once all the other players have moved into their segments.

As the article points out, 563 horsepower and 775 pound-feet of torque... sure some people will buy this for non-work reasons, but, uh, that is a farm truck

Sounds more like a muscle car to me. The overwhelmingly vast majority of these trucks will be used as personal and family vehicles. Most of those will never see a load that couldn't be handled by a sedan and utility trailer. Certainly nothing that requires those sorts of chest thumping power specs.

It won’t be long before designers begin building new and more interesting uses for it (maybe even eliminate it!) as we all adjust our expectations.

I'd love to see bull dog COEs.

Moral judgments about the size of other peoples’ vehicles usually strike me funny. How do you know I don’t need a truck and have you ever had to haul a full band PA system or 1500 pounds of gravel in a hatchback?

It's not a specific people judgement. It's a critique of the marketing. You could haul the same load in a 50s pickup but the tailgate would be at mid thigh instead of mid chest height. And the box sides were low enough you could reach over them to grab something from the box. It's gotten so ridiculous modern pickup trucks have integrated ladders FFS. The hoods are so tall I need to stand on a block of wood to check the oil in my work truck. [This is another shitty piece of engineering BTW. 70s full size vans had dipsticks with the handle right at the rad cradle. Why the hell can't they do the same with these monster pickups. Instead there is a little tiny dipstick buried half way down the shoulder height engine compartment.]
posted by Mitheral at 10:04 AM on June 7 [9 favorites]


Average people don't casually drift to conservative politics. They're pushed by snobs

LoL. Dude. Imagine allowing your worldview to be dictated by people you hate by only occupying the ideological spaces they leave empty for you. Radical self-own. (I don't suppose it needs to be said that nobody's forced to participate in MetaFilter. If you're still here, you must have a reason.)

For what it's worth, those of us in rural, or rural-adjacent areas with lots of toxic macho culture, know that 90% of the guys who claim "need" these things are full of shit. You can tell because they'll be ten years old and nary a scratch or dent. Sure, you work at an auto parts store and carry a fifty pound box maybe once a moth. The rest of the time it's a penis-extender.

~~~

For my part -- and in this I'm motivated entirely by pettiness -- I've been hoping that the big car companies would start stealing Elon Musk's lunch money for a while now and maybe this is the first sign of progress.
posted by klanawa at 10:08 AM on June 7 [17 favorites]


On the subject of steroid-driven truck design, Jalopnik has some words.

(seriously, go look at that Denali rendering)
posted by aramaic at 10:09 AM on June 7 [6 favorites]


(seriously, go look at that Denali rendering)

Someone needs to do a security sweep of the GMC design studio- I think Frank Miller may be hiding in the air vents.
posted by zamboni at 10:18 AM on June 7 [4 favorites]


Great article and post, but this thread is extremely depressing. Great job guys!
posted by flamk at 10:23 AM on June 7 [6 favorites]


The 93 Probe was the first car at Ford with a female design head.

And yet they released it with the name "Probe," indicating a failure to listen to any women they did have on staff.
posted by fedward at 10:27 AM on June 7 [2 favorites]


I live in a rural area and a truck like this would be a blessing. I don't haul 1000 pound loads but damn, there's always something. This week I have to pick up my lawnmower from the shop and transporting it will be a problem. My snowblower needs to go in too and that's an even worse haul. We're out of range for most delivery services. I need new patio furniture and it ain't gonna fit in our car. And don't even get me started on bringing home anything from the greenhouse larger than geraniums.

So while pickups don't always haul massive loads in the burbs or small towns, there's many many times that box comes in handy. Don't even get me started on how cool that frunk is.
posted by Ber at 10:55 AM on June 7 [3 favorites]


I feel like it's really smart to start out selling fully electric cars in the US with very macho models like the F-150 and the Mustang. If the goal is to get rid of internal combustion engines in the next decade, you need to find a way to sell them to customers who wouldn't be caught dead in a Prius.
posted by octothorpe at 11:10 AM on June 7 [16 favorites]


One thing I'm not seeing mentioned is if Ford can actually make these trucks.

Of course at the price point and specs and with the F150 branding, it will sell like hotcakes. Absolutely.

But... there's only so many lithium ion cells in the world. Tesla has built two lithium factories, that doubled the total worlds li-ion production... and it's still Tesla's most limiting supply chain piece for production scaling.

Trucks take more Li-ion cells than a smaller car to get the range, because they are heavier. So... where will Ford get the LI-ION cells from? Are they also making a new factory or two just for the cells?

Or, (more likely), will they only be able to churn out 50,000 trucks a year, to tesla's 500,000?

Regardless, Tesla's cybertruck looks a lot less great with this cars HUGE fronk and additional features. If I was looking at electric trucks, I'd lean toward the f150 on features alone. However, I wonder if Tesla, being so nimble, can just quickly add the features they are lacking. Competition! It's good for all of us!
posted by bbqturtle at 11:50 AM on June 7 [5 favorites]


I'm hopeful that when this comes out our Premier will re-instate the electric vehicle rebates. It was one thing where they were perceived to only benefit rich city-folk but once there's something like this available and the rebates might be going to rural ridings maybe his government will change its position.

I was excited about the Cybertruck when it was announced because there didn't seem to be anything else like it as far as its capabilities are concerned. I like the look but could understand why lots of people wouldn't. Didn't bother reserving a spot to get one because I'm in no real rush to get a new car and would rather see how they actually were for a couple of years before getting one myself. Also things like what kind of accessories would be available for it. With the F150 Lightning I'd expect that all the stuff that fit a regular one would work just as well on it.

Where's the fully electric minivan? Right now an EV truck looks like the way to go to carry 5-6 people and/or lots of stuff and the choice is really which truck suits your needs better. If there was a fully electric Dodge Caravan or Honda Odyssey around then people would need to actually think about what kind of vehicle is more appropriate for them.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 11:54 AM on June 7 [4 favorites]


“Frunk” has already happened! As far as I know it’s the term of art in vehicle design.

The Maverick is a great option for many tradespeople and weekend gardeners hauling mulch, for sure. And it’s clearly going to be electrified soon. It is too small for my needs, and front wheel drive won’t cut it for me either. But it could find a lot of uses and seems like a good entry in the derby.
posted by spitbull at 11:58 AM on June 7


With the F150 Lightning I'd expect that all the stuff that fit a regular one would work just as well on it.

That is what they’re saying and it’s a huge selling point.
posted by spitbull at 11:59 AM on June 7


So... where will Ford get the LI-ION cells from? Are they also making a new factory or two just for the cells?

Publicity around the Lightning launch focuses on Ford consolidating their supply chain strategy so that their BEV parts are consistent across platforms (including Transit and Mach-E), and expanding supply with the BlueOvalSK partnership.
posted by zamboni at 12:00 PM on June 7 [2 favorites]


So... where will Ford get the LI-ION cells from? Are they also making a new factory or two just for the cells?

Ford contracted with SK Innovation to provide batteries from a new plant in Georgia. That plant was held up by a patent lawsuit between SK Innovation and LG Chem, but the lawsuit has now been settled, allowing manufacturing to move forward without a doom cloud over it. In addition to that, Ford and SK have committed to build at least two new plants in a joint venture (the same BlueOvalSK partnership zamboni mentions above).
posted by fedward at 12:05 PM on June 7 [7 favorites]


Where's the fully electric minivan? Right now an EV truck looks like the way to go to carry 5-6 people and/or lots of stuff and the choice is really which truck suits your needs better. If there was a fully electric Dodge Caravan or Honda Odyssey around then people would need to actually think about what kind of vehicle is more appropriate for them.

VW is promising to revive the microbus in the form of an EV called the ID.Buzz in 2024.
posted by octothorpe at 12:09 PM on June 7 [2 favorites]


Also because I might have missed it above, this thing is Union Made.

That matters a lot to me. I’m sticking with Ford.
posted by spitbull at 12:10 PM on June 7 [9 favorites]


Where's the fully electric minivan? Right now an EV truck looks like the way to go to carry 5-6 people and/or lots of stuff and the choice is really which truck suits your needs better. If there was a fully electric Dodge Caravan or Honda Odyssey around then people would need to actually think about what kind of vehicle is more appropriate for them.

Ford has announced the E-Transit cargo van, but not (yet) a passenger version of it with rows of seating and windows. I'm guessing that will come when they believe the charging network exists for it, since the changes would be more cosmetic than structural.

And I'll believe the ID.Buzz when it's actually available for purchase. VW keeps announcing models they're not going to sell in the US.
posted by fedward at 12:12 PM on June 7 [1 favorite]


Sadly 3/4 of the EVs marketed in Europe and Asia never get sold here in the US. I'd love the VW ID.3 but we're not getting it.
posted by octothorpe at 12:16 PM on June 7 [3 favorites]


American exceptionalism!
posted by fedward at 12:22 PM on June 7 [1 favorite]


If we are getting all radical disruptor style with our vehicles I would propose something more like a Millenium Falcon cockpit or WWII bomber style front end with mega visibility all around.

Driver seat on a raised platform on the aft end, bed up front. Like a container ship on wheels.
posted by ctmf at 12:24 PM on June 7 [3 favorites]


Driver seat on a raised platform on the aft end, bed up front. Like a container ship on wheels. Like a dumper!
posted by postel's law at 12:28 PM on June 7 [1 favorite]


Given how nasty all these threads get recently, maybe cars need to join I/P on the list of topics Metafilter can't handle.
posted by thefoxgod at 12:39 PM on June 7 [3 favorites]


Sadly 3/4 of the EVs marketed in Europe and Asia never get sold here in the US. I'd love the VW ID.3 but we're not getting it.--octothorpe

This is possibly because the way Federal Tax rebates for EVs are now set, a car company is only allowed to have rebates for a certain number of cars. Both Tesla and GM have used up their numbers and you no longer can get a tax rebate for their cars. VW probably wants to have the limited numbers of tax rebates available for their most profitable car, which would be the ID.4. As a result the ID.3 doesn't come to the US.

This all penalizes cheaper cars and first movers in the industry. Hopefully this all changes with new tax bills being considered. The problem is that you get the Osborne effect, where people hold off buying until they see what happens with the bills. And with typical Congressional dickering this could take a while. They really need to get something out quickly or they will end up hurting the industry, which, I assume, is the exact opposite of what they want. I never really understand when people knowingly do something that has the opposite effect than what they intend.
posted by eye of newt at 12:55 PM on June 7


I wish the truck bed were 6.5 feet, rather than 5.5. I am a firm believer in vehicles as alternate sleeping quarters, at least a deck for watching stars. I wonder why all outer surfaces aren't solar collectors. But hey the electric van! Maybe some folks missed the part about the F-150 is the most popular vehicle in the US. My Dad drove one, I recognise my lawn guy's truck way down the block, whomp, thrum, thrum, an elder F-150. To be clear, I rent, my tiny place comes with lawn service. Those old F-150's are made of steel. They win in accidents with plastiemobiles.
posted by Oyéah at 1:11 PM on June 7 [1 favorite]


Can you name the truck with four wheel drive,
Smells like a steak and seats thirty-five..

Canyonero! Canyonero!

Well, it goes real slow with the hammer down,
It's the country-fried truck endorsed by a clown!

Canyonero! (Yah!) Canyonero!
[Krusty:] Hey Hey

The Federal Highway Commission has ruled the Canyonero unsafe for highway or city driving.

...

12 yards long, 2 lanes wide

65 tons of American Pride!

Canyonero! Canyonero!

Top of the line in utility sports,
Unexplained fires are a matter for the courts!

Canyonero! Canyonero! (Yah!)

She blinds everybody with her super high beams,
She's a squirrel-crushing, deer-smacking, driving machine!
posted by kirkaracha at 1:16 PM on June 7 [8 favorites]


This is possibly because the way Federal Tax rebates for EVs are now set

Nah, global car companies never sell the good shit in the US.
posted by GCU Sweet and Full of Grace at 1:47 PM on June 7


And with typical Congressional dickering this could take a while. They really need to get something out quickly or they will end up hurting the industry, which, I assume, is the exact opposite of what they want. I never really understand when people knowingly do something that has the opposite effect than what they intend.

The weird political reality we have is hard to address without sounding snarky, but a large part of the problem is a weird sort of "real Americans" tribal identity that won't allow politicians to enact laws that are perceived as favoring cities or placing their needs (say, pollution restrictions or pedestrian safety standards) over the needs of "the heartland." And there were previous perverse incentives like Section 179 that encouraged non-farmers to buy heavy SUVs. They were taxed like they were work trucks and eligible for much bigger write-offs as business expenses, even though a lawyer or accountant doesn't need a Hummer for work in the same way a farmer needs a heavy truck.

Anyway. I think a lot of fleet managers will be buying electric trucks because the economics make sense regardless of any politics or tax incentives, and Ford was smart to make the F150 Lightning a halo vehicle. The question of whether individual buyers will also be won over is interesting, but it gets into a lot of identity politics about who drives, or needs, a truck, and why, and that's not a conversation everybody comes to in good faith, or without a number of chips already on various shoulders.
posted by fedward at 2:01 PM on June 7 [2 favorites]


Something that limits the appeal for us is that the range while towing is likely pretty short. Not a big deal for in-town work hauling.

For people with intermittent hauling needs, even compact sized SUVs can tow a few thousand lbs. A small trailer adds $1k to the purchase, takes care of the bulky objects, and is out of the way when you don't need it.
posted by a robot made out of meat at 2:08 PM on June 7 [1 favorite]


The range numbers are apparently with a 1000-lb load, which means the hit from towing something will be less than assumed.

Plus, you don't have to store a trailer somewhere when you have a truck.
posted by sagc at 2:13 PM on June 7 [1 favorite]


obvs sell the generator-range extender trailer a la ye olde series hybrid joke.
posted by Huffy Puffy at 2:18 PM on June 7


And yet they released it with the name "Probe," indicating a failure to listen to any women they did have on staff.

The name was set with the first gen model in 1988 before Mimi Vandermolen designed the second gen. I sure would like to have sat in on those meetings though. The double entendre isn't subtle. Did the marketing team just get pissed off when the fan Bois lost their shit about a FWD Mustang.

global car companies never sell the good shit in the US

And at least part of that is taxes eg: chicken tax keeping out 2dr pickups and protectionist legislation (like headlight requirements).

Also because I might have missed it above, this thing is Union Made.

That matters a lot to me. I’m sticking with Ford.


Especially considering the Tesla factory is practically a sweat shop.

Tesla's cybertruck looks a lot less great with this cars HUGE fronk and additional features. If I was looking at electric trucks, I'd lean toward the f150 on features alone. However, I wonder if Tesla, being so nimble, can just quickly add the features they are lacking. Competition! It's good for all of us!

Be interesting to see. Ford has the advantage of being a world wide truck company with a 100 years of experience building pickups and deep integration with their suppliers. And Tesla is high on their own supply (you just have to contemplate the tailgate of the cybertruck to see that). And people are conservative when choosing a vehicle.
posted by Mitheral at 2:22 PM on June 7


Can I still roll coal in one of these bad boys?
posted by kirkaracha at 2:31 PM on June 7


kirkaracha, between your two posts here... you do understand that this is an electric truck, and that there are good reasons to produce + sell trucks? Because I'm not sure what you're trying to get across here.
posted by sagc at 2:42 PM on June 7


the high and mighty MF folk regularly exhibit not only ignorance, but disdain for the wants and needs of the regular folks... who are poorly represented here

OK, I'm ignorant. Why does a regular person need a truck that can tow over 1,000,000 pounds? First 10 double-decker freight cars, then 10 double-decker freight cars carrying 42 F-150s. The base list price starts at around $42,000, which seems like a lot for regular folks to ignorant me.

I understand there are lots of people that legitimately need big, strong work trucks. Ms. Zhang has an inspiring story and this truck has some cool technology. I just think it's cartoonishly powerful and kind of expensive.
posted by kirkaracha at 2:45 PM on June 7


I mean, presumably it can tow that much because it's an electric motor? And it's not exhorbitantly priced, either compared to a slightly-specced up crew cab IC truck or, perhaps more saliently, other electric vehicles.
posted by sagc at 2:48 PM on June 7


Lots of people need big strong trucks but there aren't enough of them to make the F-150 the top selling vehicle in North America for decades. Their marketing pretty handily explains who is making up the difference. Example: the 0-60 time is 1000% irrelevant to people who use trucks for work.
posted by klanawa at 2:51 PM on June 7 [5 favorites]


Towing freight cars isn't that impressive; they're nearly frictionless. 0-60 time isn't going to be very good, but I can probably do it with my Tiguan.

(not up a hill, though)
posted by ctmf at 2:54 PM on June 7


Sure, but I'm not sure that you can lay the blame for that solely at Ford's feet for making a truck. Tesla has, I think, pretty much entirely distorted what people think an electric vehicle is/should be/should be marketed as.
posted by sagc at 2:55 PM on June 7


$42,000 is not much for a truck these days. That bothers me like crazy because I think 42 grand for ANY car is a lot, but [shrug] that's how lots of trucks are priced now. And they sell.

(The "regular people" thing is a sticking point I wish we could get past. Everyone sees what they want in a phrase like that, and it only hurts conversation.)
posted by cyclopticgaze at 2:59 PM on June 7 [9 favorites]


The key learning from this thread is we all need to make “frunk” happen
Oww, we want the frunk, give up the frunk!
Oww, we need the frunk, we gotta have the frunk!
posted by Nerd of the North at 4:06 PM on June 7 [4 favorites]


OK, I'm ignorant. Why does a regular person need a truck that can tow over 1,000,000 pounds?

A lot less impressive when some random dude can pull over 500,000 pounds with just his teeth.

I remember a complaining to an engineer about how this test was nonsense and that anyone who knew anything about physics would immediately realise how ridiculous this is, why would any engineer sign off on it, and he said that it doesn't matter, it gets clicks and eyeballs... lol
posted by xdvesper at 4:13 PM on June 7 [1 favorite]


I don't care what Ford says, the Mach-E is not a Mustang--not because it's electric, but because it's too high off the ground and has too many damned doors.

I'm sure company advertising people think it's a brilliant strategy to use some of the reflected Mustang name recognition to garner some attention for the vehicle in question, but I think in the long run they're going to hurt both the Mustang brand and whatever this new car will turn out to be. It's a significant enough product for Ford that it should have its own name and identity.

I also have strong quibbles about the new Maverick. Again, what they're rolling out doesn't even come close to reflecting the spirit of what a Maverick originally was. The company might be able to make a stronger argument for this one, given how long the name has been retired, but still, I'm far from convinced.

(And for the record, no, that sample Maverick is not worth the asking price, not by a long shot. Hell, five Mavericks wouldn't be worth that much money.)
posted by sardonyx at 4:35 PM on June 7


If that power plant were on a minivan I would dump our beloved Toyota Sienna in a New York minute. Because I don't need a truck's towing and bed, I need seats...and all that electricity and storage space would be catnip for a suburban family like mine.
posted by wenestvedt at 4:52 PM on June 7 [4 favorites]


the spirit of what a Maverick originally was

That car was much less mavericky than I expected.
Maverickesque? Maverickicious?
posted by kirkaracha at 5:27 PM on June 7


Gotta make a move to a truck that’s right for me
Truck to keep me movin keep me groovin with some energy
Well I post about it post about it post about it post about it
Post about post about post about movin
Gotta move on
Gotta move on
Gotta move on
Won’t you take me to Frunkytown?
Won’t you take me to Frunkytown?
Won’t you take me to Frunkytown?
Won’t you take me to Frunkytown?
posted by Huffy Puffy at 5:39 PM on June 7 [3 favorites]


The funny thing about the Mach E is that it actually has less ground clearance than some sedans, even it its taller because of its shape. "Crossover" goes down better than the "w" word I guess.

An electric pick-up truck is obviously huge because many people require pick-ups for business purposes and their daily lives; although, I'll defend to the death the idea that you can't beat the old unsexy minivan for shear utility. Nobody wants to be caught dead driving those, though.

What annoys me is that people like me who don't want pick up trucks or SUVs are finding less options because automakers seem to want to steer everyone away from sedans and hatches, especially if you want to buy and electric. Ford and GM both cancelled all their sedans with the possible exception of the Chevy Malibu despite the fact they many actually were good cars that seemed to sell well. Meanwhile, the North American market is about to be flooded with about 100 hundred different versions of an attempt at an electric RAV 4.

From what I understand, part of the problem is that car companies break up the world by regions, so to them "North America" is one market despite the fact that metropolitan areas like LA or the east coast BOS-WASH megalopolis are much more similar to Western Europe than they are to rural Texas or one of the innumerable midwestern/sunbelt suburbs. That's a huge market that gets underserved because its lumped into "North America". Moreover, its not like American cities outside NYC have great mass transit systems to fall back on like in Europe, so in theory that should increase demand even further. Yet Volkswagen won't even attempt to sell their electric hatchback here, and we have to wait for the sedan to get a non SUV electric car from their MEB platform. That leaves Telsa, Polestar, and the Chevy Bolt (underrated btw) as your only non-suv/pickup choice if you are an American electric car shopper.
posted by eagles123 at 5:51 PM on June 7 [7 favorites]


The Lighting is not “ridiculously powerful” for what it is. It has ridiculous torque for its robust but not extreme horsepower rating. The uses of torque like that for actual truck purposes exceed the uses of raw horsepower for many kinds of truck users. As I mentioned above, plowing, towing, driving on rough terrain, and acceleration (and hell, while we are at it, stump-pulling) are all greatly enhanced by a torque to power and weight ratio like this truck offers.

A Ford Raptor is “ridiculously powerful,” for sure, because it mostly isn’t designed to a spec of maximum efficiency under load, but responsiveness and speed.

Anyone who has used an electric lawnmower lately knows the deal. Torque is usable power, and its relative availability in particular power bands and gear ranges defines the driving character as well as the utility of a vehicle more than any other raw specification. This is why electric vehicles can be quicker and faster while being more efficient. Or they can put that power to towing or climbing over rocks. Either way the full power band is available instantly and if it isn’t restrained by power-saving technology, it can be downright thrilling to experience.

$42,000 is totally affordable for a new full sized truck engineered for at least a decade of totally reliable service, and in practice much longer for most use cases. It’s worth noting that full size trucks are easily more durable by a lot than most commuter cars. That also factors into their carbon footprint, in a positive way. And F-150s are now made out of …. Aluminum. They don’t rust out the way steel bodied trucks eventually do. There are still steel parts underneath but they can be replaced. Here in New England, rust is usually the only thing that can and does actually kill full sized trucks under about 30 years old. Now take away the ICE drivetrain, an order of magnitude more complex than the BEV drivetrain with far more wear and tear on the entire system under use, and you remove the second most common cause of death for old trucks, namely worn out and blown motors and transmissions, which come much later than on the average commuter car. A full sized truck (most models of any major brand) that is well maintained and not exposed to heavy rust conditions can easily last 400k miles and 30 years or longer.

Take away rust and a ton of mechanical wear and tear and replacing the battery pack (which might run you $15-20k I think) every 100-150k miles becomes the major cost of maintenance. You’d have spend some of that over the life of an ICE truck taking care of maintenance on items that aren’t there anymore now. Now it’s just tires, brakes, suspension, transaxles/differentials, and lighting. The motors themselves should easily go the distance. They won’t be absurdly expensive if they don’t.

Point being, divide the cost of a truck over 20 years at least, adding higher maintenance costs than a car, but likely lower repair costs too. The higher price buys something: durability. Amortize depreciation over 250-300k and I’m pretty sure that, minus fuel costs, your competitive with the total cost of ownership of a far less capable car that costs $30k. And you can bet fleet managers have run these numbers (where resale value at a certain age can stand for durability) down to the dime over many years. They keep buying F-150s.

Big trucks hardly depreciate at all compared to cars for the first few years of ownership.

Realistically, and leaving aside the tax credit that will be phased out on these within a year or two, you’re gonna spend $50k or even a bit more to get the long range version with a bunch of useful options (you’ll pay even more while they’re new and hot due to demand pressure). But ok, divide $50k by 20 years. Now take a $30k Accord and divide by 12 or so years, which is a guesstimate for when a Accord depreciation falls off a cliff.

Give or take a few bucks it’s equivalent.
posted by spitbull at 5:55 PM on June 7 [8 favorites]


I'll defend to the death the idea that you can't beat the old unsexy minivan for shear utility.

Yep, put a trailer hitch on a minivan and it will beat a truck for utility any day. My Odyssey fits sheets of plywood and 10’ long lumber, I can tow my boat and my camper with it. For those rare occasions when a minivan won’t do it, I rent a truck.
posted by fimbulvetr at 6:03 PM on June 7 [6 favorites]


From what I've read, transmission are huge failure points in trucks, especially if they have to tow. That's a huge advantage for BEV drivetrains so long as the battery tech is good, which I guess it the big "if" at this point. Still, considering the enormous sums getting dumped into battery research, my guess is that is a problem that is going to get solved sooner rather than later. In the meantime, I wonder if the first gen BEV from Ford/GM aren't going to overengineered in sense to create a good first impression for consumers making the switch (i.e., oversized batteries with huge buffers and conservative range estimates).
posted by eagles123 at 6:10 PM on June 7 [2 favorites]


I’ll also note that precisely due to their ludicrous (to, ummmm, borrow a term) torque to power ratios, Lightning and other BEV trucks will certainly be replacing the use of diesel-engined trucks for heavy duty specs. (I can’t wait to see if they release a Lighting in Super Duty trim!), perhaps limited most by the limit on battery efficiency imposed by cold weather use and field conditions without charging capacity (I hang out in the Arctic, where you think a lot about these things and diesel F-250 Super Duty trucks are totally rational choices). But for an oilfield truck, or a heavy construction truck, or agricultural uses, the mix of electric efficiency with incredible torque and sufficient power will replace the most polluting combustion engine technology, motor to motor and horsepower to horsepower, still on the road. Diesel’s main advantages are fuel efficiency, durability under near continuous use, and exceptional torque to power ratios.

BEV full sized trucks make them all moot as advantages, unless your job site is 100 miles from the nearest power outlet. I presume F250 and F350 follow in due time. That’s a clear market advantage for Ford over RAM, GMC, and Toyota, the real competition.
posted by spitbull at 6:16 PM on June 7 [2 favorites]


That car was much less mavericky than I expected.
Maverickesque? Maverickicious?
posted by kirkaracha at 5:27 PM on June 7


This is one of those situations where context is everything. The Maverickness came about because of how the car was positioned. Ford developed this directly to tackle the growing threat of the imports--small, fuel-efficient cars coming out of Japan and Germany, so that affected the design and the build and the marketing (see colour-choice names) and the financing. Overall, it was an approach that worked, as the company sold astonishing numbers of cars.
posted by sardonyx at 6:31 PM on June 7


I wonder if the first gen BEV from Ford/GM aren't going to overengineered in sense to create a good first impression for consumers making the switch (i.e., oversized batteries with huge buffers and conservative range estimates).
posted by eagles123 at 6:10 PM on June 7


I think the traditional auto makers are already doing that.
In any real world range test the traditional car company cars all outperform their stated range, while almost all the Teslas fall short of their stated range.
posted by Iax at 7:27 PM on June 7


"If that power plant were on a minivan I would dump our beloved Toyota Sienna in a New York minute."

Right? I've got two kids hitting puberty (LEGS SO LONG) and a third still in car seats and I'm ekeing out more years in the smallest minivan that was ever on the market in the US (Mazda 5; mine's 11 years old) in the hopes a GOOD fully-electric minivan hits the market before my Mazda 5 dies or I literally cannot pretzel my children into the 3rd row. And I feel like there's so much market for even a limited range fully-EV minivan? Since minivans mostly do kid-hauling (and grocery-hauling), and kid-hauling is mostly within a 50-mile radius. I would buy ANY reasonable fully EV minivan in a hot second, and if it had crap range, just rent something with an ICE when we were driving to grandma's house -- still cheaper than plane tickets.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 7:33 PM on June 7 [6 favorites]


Chrysler makes a plug-in electric version of its minivan. Its not full electric, but its good for about 30 miles of electric range before the gas engine kicks in. It's probably expensive though, and I'm not sure about the availability depending on where you live.
posted by eagles123 at 7:44 PM on June 7 [1 favorite]


would need to see the math on that assertion. Even just limiting the calculus to work vehicles in fleets, that’s a shit ton of trucks burning dinosaur juice at the moment.

Divide one F-150 by 3 = three F-50’s. Take one F-50, give it to a farmer. Take the other two F-50’s and divide by 10. You now have ten F-10s. Electrify those and give them out to city/suburban commuters.

With the material and cost savings of having fewer heavy vehicles travelling roads, build more bicycle roads. Take another F-150, divide again, build 1500 e-bikes.

Kidding, but also serious. I’m a long time gearhead and love cars in a car loving culture but something has got to change and simply putting batteries into everything is simplistic to the point where I think we’re doing more harm than good.

The company that does work on our chimney have many tools and recently switched to cargo ebikes and they look pretty awesome cruising the streets.
posted by romanb at 10:51 PM on June 7 [1 favorite]


I’ll keep saying it: if you drive a compact utility vehicle, you can’t really judge people who drive big trucks with a clear conscience. Your RAV4 or CRV or Crosstek is a victim of the same “make it more rugged, higher off the ground, larger, and oh yeah let’s add unnecessary all wheel drive” thinking as any full sized truck. Those vehicles are compact cars on stilts. The stilts take 5-10 mpg off the rating of the underlying compact car due to higher profile, heavier weight, and typical full time AWD setups. And that’s true for a hybrid too. Size is size and aerodynamics are aerodynamics. I see a majority of CUVS driven on the highway with a single occupant, so while maybe you “need” one for your family, you’re using it to commute by yourself too, folks. Why not just rent a minivan when you need to drive the family, and drive a tiny subcompact to commute alone?

Millions of raised AWD compact cars now called “CUVS” are the dominant vehicle category in the US now. Aggregating the brands gets you more CUVS than pickup trucks being sold by a lot, many ruggedized with “off road” appearance packages they will never ever need to get dirty either.

Multiply the 10-15% fuel costs of going for a higher profile AWD family car times a few million families and explain to me why there is not equal opprobrium at the conspicuously overlarge and fuel-wasting Toyota RAV4 when driven as a commuter car, even in hybrid form? Does it need the ruggedized cladding? Does it need to be quite so high off the ground? Does it need AWD to commute 50 miles on a Georgia highway that never sees snow?

That hypocrisy — my completely optional lifestyle choice is virtuous, yours is a sin — is part of what those of us who defend trucks as perfectly normal vehicles even for those who rarely get them dirty, take them off road, or haul gravel and mulch, are calling hypocrisy. You chose your RAV4 for aesthetic and lifestyle and politically expressive reasons too (And Toyota was a leading supporter of Trump efforts to roll back California emissions standards, and has donated heavily to congresspersons who voted not to certify Biden’s victory, since Jan. 6, so don’t be so sure your RAV4 signifies exactly what you think it means compared to a union-made full sized American truck.

I see so many slams at people who own trucks who — it is confidently asserted — never need a vehicle that size or never haul plywood or only do so a few times a year so why don’t they drive a Ford Fiesta and rent a truck from Home Depot?

How do you actually know what your neighbors do with their vehicle, how often, and what economic calculations they made when they bought a truck?

Unless you’re in a tiny electric car on your solo commute every day, or don’t commute and take public transport or your bike everywhere you can, you are inside the glass house too. We all are.
posted by spitbull at 3:25 AM on June 8 [4 favorites]


Romanb, that looks like math but it isn’t really that direct. Building new kinds of vehicles takes investment and comes at a cost of its own. Vehicles are expensive and trucks last 20 years or so at least. Some of what you’re imagining is under development and has been for a long time. It’s why Ford is offering the Maverick and the Ranger alongside larger trucks. They want to sell you the vehicle you want to buy.

A lot of ideal world scenarios sound good until you consider the costs of getting to them.
posted by spitbull at 3:36 AM on June 8


I intentionally and deliberately have only owned hatchbacks and not CUVs/SUVs, and I bike or take transit to work, but go off I guess. Besides, my argument has been and continues to be not that we shame people for buying what's on the market (I basically had the choice between two cars when I was buying a couple years ago as hatchbacks and wagons disappear from the market, replaced by the UVs I am trying to avoid). It was that we change how we rate car safety, we change how we pay for infrastructure to better match the damage heavier vehicles do to roads and other road users, and we change how we build infrastructure to disincentivize purchasing huge vehicles.

IDK, maybe I'm traumatized by the experience I had when my old Mazda3 was dying. I rented a car to manage the car-less weekend while we looked for a replacement. Despite renting an economy car, the rental place walking distance from my house put me in a Ford Edge. People, driving that thing was TERRIFYING. I felt like I couldn't see anything around the vehicle, like I was just driving a giant blind spot. I remember pulling from the side street to take a left turn onto a main road (with a green light) and feeling like there could be pedestrians all around me and I wouldn't have seen them. People get used to that lack of visibility around the giant cars they drive very quickly, but it doesn't mean those blind spots don't still exist. Cameras can only do so much. And I also have bad experiences on our narrow residential city streets that aren't quite wide enough for two cars to pass each other with the street parking on each side. It's always the assholes in giant trucks and SUVs who just barrel through expecting the other vehicles to be the ones to pull to the side and wait.

There has got to be a way to interrupt this vehicle size arms race where it's considered a good thing that a giant truck will "win" in a collision with another vehicle or person (a word used in this context in this very thread). And a way to interrupt the trend where we replace gridlocked city streets full of gasoline powered cars with gridlocked city streets full of EVs and call that mission accomplished. (Without disincentivizing EVs because they DO have their place and are an important tool in mitigating climate change. I continue to support the idea of electrified work vehicles in all forms! Really!)

On my walk with my dog this morning through my Chicago working class neighborhood, I took note of the work trucks parked on the streets. There were a number of small Chevy S-10-sized pickups. There are several work vans of various forms and functions. And there was a cherry red Ford F-250 with I assume an aftermarket lift kit that was so tall the sedan parked behind it couldn't possibly be seen by anyone driving that truck. The roof of the car was lower than the top of the truck bed. Oh and by the way, for all the "no one claims to need these to off-road" or "stop bringing up off-roading, your car can do more than you strictly need it to, too, so there" I heard in this thread, the fucking stock decals on the F-250 (and another F-150 I saw) literally say "OFF ROAD" on the side of the bed. I'm not the one claiming you need these trucks to drive off road, the truck itself is shouting it.
posted by misskaz at 4:58 AM on June 8 [2 favorites]


Isn't a SUV pretty much a truck chassis with a top welded on, leather seats, and some cupholders? The electric F-150 may be on the way to electrifying them, too.
posted by thelonius at 5:06 AM on June 8


Isn't a SUV pretty much a truck chassis

Used to be, and certainly there are people who will only call something an SUV if it's a cab-on-frame vehicle. But lots of vehicles that lots of people call SUVs are unibody construction like any other passenger vehicle. Lots are basically restyled minivans with swingy-outey doors.
posted by GCU Sweet and Full of Grace at 5:53 AM on June 8 [4 favorites]


I'm pretty dismayed by the pitiful selection of small cars left in North America. Our 2004 VW Golf is at the end of its life, and there are very few small hatchback options left to replace it. We also have a minivan, but the Golf is our main vehicle for driving around the city. It is soo much better on fuel economy, and driving a huge minivan around the city is horrible. We mostly keep the thing for towing the camper and road trips with the family, and the occasional time it is convenient to have a second car.

Giant electric trucks and SUVs are great and all for displacing fossil-fuel burning vehicles, but I'm sick of the exurbs and rural taste for giant vehicles setting the fleet standard and killing off small cars. It is getting more difficult to navigate narrow city streets with all of the behemothic metal battle wagons taking up the entire street.

Why every electric car has to be a high-powered speed demon is also beyond my comprehension. The speed limit on most streets where I live is 40 kph, and there is absolutely no need for stupid-fast acceleration when the next stop sign or stop light is 50 m away.
posted by fimbulvetr at 8:36 AM on June 8 [2 favorites]


The Hidden Danger of BIG Trucks (Consumer Reports, not paywalled)
We measured front visibility for 15 new vehicles, including full-sized and heavy-duty trucks. Because of their height and long hoods, we found that some trucks had front blind spots 11 feet longer than those in some sedans and 7 feet longer than in many popular SUVs.

When a driver hits someone in their front blind spot while maneuvering in a driveway or parking lot, it’s called a “frontover” collision, says Jennifer Stockburger, director of operations at Consumer Reports’ Auto Test Center. “Small children are especially vulnerable to frontover crashes,” she says. There were more than 931 frontover fatalities between 1990 and 2019, with most victims between 12 and 23 months old, according to the advocacy group KidsAndCars.org. Over 80 percent of those fatalities involved a truck, a van, or an SUV.
Trucks are getting bigger, and as a result they're more dangerous to pedestrians. I live in a dense urban environment (the District of Columbia) where they're utterly impractical as daily drivers. I don't see as many big trucks driven as lifestyle choices here as I saw when I lived in Oklahoma, but the number isn't zero. People who live or drive in dense urban environments still sometimes choose big trucks and SUVs despite their impracticality.
Full-sized pickups command the marketplace. The three best-selling vehicles in the U.S. are trucks: the Ford F-Series, Chevrolet Silverado, and Ram. Pickups now count for 1 of every 5 new vehicles sold. Within the segment, full-sized trucks have become even more popular than compact or midsized models. Full-sized trucks, such as the F-150, Silverado, Ram 1500, Toyota Tundra, and Nissan Titan, now hold 79 percent of the pickup market, up 12 percent from 2000.
By this statistic, electrifying big truck models first might actually make a difference in overall fossil fuel usage and pollution, when "real Americans" buy them as lifestyle choices instead of gas powered trucks of equivalent size. Go, go, "real Americans!"
Trucks with luxurious amenities and prices north of $60,000 can also be status symbols. “They’re absolutely not typically a choice for the average American car buyer,” says Bernard Swiecki, director of research at the Center for Automotive Research. He estimates that the typical pickup buyer’s median household income is $60,000 a year higher than the average American household’s income.
Oh.
posted by fedward at 8:40 AM on June 8 [4 favorites]


Side note: since I grew up in Oklahoma I'm very familiar with both the pickup truck for hauling and the pickup truck as a lifestyle choice. I can't help but notice that as trucks get taller and more aggressive looking* (WSJ; it didn't paywall me when I first loaded it, but it did when I reloaded) so do their beds, both with raised bed heights and taller sides that make it much more difficult to load or unload. 20 years ago you could easily reach over the sides of a truck bed. Now you can't, which definitely seems to be prioritizing the stylistic desires of the (wealthy) lifestyle truck buyer over the functional needs of the work truck buyer.

* This is intentional. The Consumer Reports article quotes analysts talking about the marketing, but the WSJ article makes it explicit: “The front end was always the focal point,” GM designer Karan Moorjani told Muscle Cars & Trucks e-zine. “We spent a lot of time making sure that when you stand in front of this thing it looks like it’s going to come get you.”
posted by fedward at 8:52 AM on June 8 [3 favorites]


If you're a lifestyle owner of a truck or SUV, definitely don't read this Vice article: Electric or Not, Big SUVs Are Inherently Selfish. The title is less inflammatory than the article, and the title ain't subtle.
posted by fedward at 9:03 AM on June 8 [4 favorites]


Crash-wise, you replace a V8 engine block with a frunk, you’ve got a lot more crumple you can do before you obliterate whatever it is you hit.
posted by Huffy Puffy at 9:27 AM on June 8


That Vice article is fantastic. Thanks fedward!

I like the contrast between the mentality of SUV and minivan buyers.
posted by fimbulvetr at 10:08 AM on June 8 [2 favorites]


I’ll also note that precisely due to their ludicrous (to, ummmm, borrow a term) torque to power ratios, Lightning and other BEV trucks will certainly be replacing the use of diesel-engined trucks for heavy duty specs
Higher energy density batteries have issues with high duty cycle usage. The cooling systems just can't get enough heat out of the components and automotive duty cycles are so low. This truck might use 50 of that 500+hp at highway speeds, a car is closer to 30hp. I'm sure the Ford engineers have taken into consideration the higher duty cycles of heavy loads and trailers going up grades, but I wonder how far they were able to get. I wouldn't be surprised if the hardest engineering challenge on this truck was trading energy density vs. power density(you can generally trade one for the other) on the battery chemistry and keeping the battery pack cool enough to have a long cycle life. For reference a Tesla Model S will overheat and reduce power after ~1 lap around a racetrack. To be fair, there is absolutely no reason to design a car's cooling system for more than the Baker Grade and a few 0-60mph runs in a row.

I also wonder what transmission gear equivalent that torque number is at. This truck has a single speed transmission, and guaranteed that transmission isn't the equivalent of 1st gear. The 0-60 time is impressive, but a lot of time is gained by not shifting.
posted by TheJoven at 12:18 PM on June 8 [1 favorite]


With a lot of the truck being plastic, loss of the engine, steel, and fuel weight, is it still massive enough to plow with?
posted by Oyéah at 6:55 PM on June 8


I'd bet it still weighs more than a 30 year old pickup. Besides one can always add mass in the bed or trunk.
posted by Mitheral at 8:44 PM on June 8


The 0-60 time is impressive, but a lot of time is gained by not shifting.

The car I had from 2008 would do 0-60 in about 7-8 seconds, but it would only do one shift, it finished up at 2nd gear, you'd lose a fraction of a second only.

Actually it's not uncommon to just launch in 2nd gear and do the whole 0-60 without a gear shift. That's because if you floor the accelerator in 1st gear it exceeds the tyres traction on the road and you spin the wheels... so starting in 2nd gear with less optimal gearing for the first bit of the launch is actually an advantage, hah.
posted by xdvesper at 8:46 PM on June 8


you need to find a way to sell them to customers who wouldn't be caught dead in a Prius

OK but -- and hear me out, here -- maybe the problem is not that there aren't enough products targeted at toxic dipshits, but that there are too many toxic dipshits?
posted by klanawa at 9:45 AM on June 10


I hear you but given the short runway we have to not totally set the world on fire, I'm happy if we can trick those dipshits into buying EVs, I'm all for it.
posted by octothorpe at 10:35 AM on June 10 [1 favorite]


Having fully absorbed the Maverick announcement, a lot of folks on this thread will be thrilled. A $21,000 hybrid version as base and it will sell like nobody’s business. It’s a perfect weekend gardener truck with modest towing capacity and a 1500 pound load (same as my old Ranger) or available for reasonable extra money in AWD or more powerful engines. Base config gets 40 friggin’ mpg in the city. It makes a ton more sense than a nearly $40k hybrid CUV for hundreds of thousands of potential buyers. And design elements lead folks to think a plug-in version is coming.

It’s also a perfect tradesman truck for a lot of urban and suburban tradesfolk.

Ford is on a holy tear right now. The Maverick doesn’t *quite* meet my rural and musicianly needs with the 4.5 foot bed, but for most people it will solve 98% of their driving needs across the board as a single fuel efficient and remarkably cheap vehicle. America needed this truck too.

I want BEV and need more size and power than a Maverick offers even with the 2.0l ecotec and AWD ($32k or so). So the Lightning is still what would work for me. But a huge swath of folks who don’t need a full size truck but do need a modest truck once in a while and a fuel efficient family commuter car the rest of the time just got their wish, for less than a Corolla.
posted by spitbull at 2:36 PM on June 10 [3 favorites]


Plus and I’ll be damned but it looks good, and like a Ford truck. That will seal the deal for so many. The competition — Ridgeline, Santa Cruz — look weird to many, cost a lot more, and don’t get the mileage. Albeit both tow more and the Ridgeline is a much nicer place to sit for hours and can handle more payload too with the V6. But then you’re in for $40k.

A Maverick will baby well, seat four comfortably and five (or 3 kids) ok. It can carry 37 bags of mulch in base config. Beautiful.
posted by spitbull at 2:40 PM on June 10


A $21,000 hybrid version as base and it will sell like nobody’s business.

It’s the second-cheapest vehicle they make. The EcoSport crossover is cheaper, and that’s it. (grumble grumble should still make the Focus, but still!)
posted by Huffy Puffy at 3:03 PM on June 10 [1 favorite]


Ford is on a holy tear right now.

It would be nice if they still made cars though.
posted by octothorpe at 3:55 PM on June 10


I think you mean "Sold cars in the United States", at the very least.
posted by sagc at 3:59 PM on June 10 [1 favorite]


The Maverick is a better choice for a huge market segment than most sedans or hatchbacks and gets the mileage of one too, it’s a sedan with a bed. Americans don’t want sedans in numbers that sustain a market. They want trucks. Ford gave them a truck that has many of the supposed virtues of a sedan.

Very few full or mid sized ICE sedans are breaking 40mpg. And exactly none can carry a family of five and 37 x 40-lb bags of mulch. And to repeat, get 40mpg.

And it allows many households to conceive of owning one vehicle instead of two.
posted by spitbull at 4:24 PM on June 10


America is a country with over 300 million people. It absolutely can sustain a market for sedans. Just because you can't imagine why someone would want a sedan doesn't mean there aren't people who do. GM and Ford decided to stop selling sedans in the US because trucks and SUVs are more profitable for them and they can't compete with the Japanese and now Koreans in the mass market Mid-size and small car segment. Honda, Toyota, Nissan, Hyundai, Mazda, and Kia all have highly successful compact and mid-size sedan models.
posted by eagles123 at 6:09 PM on June 10 [6 favorites]


they can't compete with the Japanese and now Koreans in the mass market Mid-size and small car segment. Honda, Toyota, Nissan, Hyundai, Mazda, and Kia all have highly successful compact and mid-size sedan models.

Isn't the Camry like the #1 car in the US?
posted by mikelieman at 5:56 AM on June 11


2021 sales to date:
Ford F-series       pickup 203,797
Ram                 pickup 148,836
Chevrolet Silverado pickup 124,704
Toyota RAV4         CUV    114,255
Honda CR-V          CUV     93,766
Nissan Rogue        CUV     86,720
Toyota Camry        car     78,151
Toyota Corolla      car     72,520
Toyota Tacoma       pickup  66,449
Ford Explorer       SUV     65,244
posted by Huffy Puffy at 6:04 AM on June 11 [1 favorite]


Oof. It's depressing how far down that list you have to go in order to get to a car-qua-car; also, there's only one station wagon on the full list 😢

And Huffy Puffy is even underselling it a bit - in the remaining 15 of the 25 top cars, only a third - 5 - are cars. So that's 7/25.
posted by sagc at 8:27 AM on June 11


Don’t confuse my personal opinions with my reporting of actual market facts. I happily drive and love a compact hatchback.

But yes there are 350 million Americans. About half of those can drive. There are 290 million vehicles on the road, already, a number that keeps going up.

Sales of midsize cars — Camry, Accord, etc. — have fallen off a cliff in just the last two years and relative to overall sales (independent of pandemic effects). They’re now at under 9% of all new cars sold.

Compare the manual transmission, for which the take rate is at under 3% and falling rapidly. So carmakers are ceasing to even offer it.

There doesn’t have to just be any market at all. Car making is a low margin high volume business and it costs a lot in regulatory expenses alone to sustain any given model in the vast US market (including years of future service support). Larger vehicles mostly offer higher profit margins, and the new hotness is reducing the complexity and number of underlying “platforms” to further leverage economies of scale wrt supply chains and regulatory obstacles as well.

Ford decided that on balance they would make more money selling few traditional cars in the US, and emphasizing SUVS and light trucks as they transitioned to post-ICE technology. Their math is good. And they’re just at the front of a growing pack now.

I am a car nut. My favorite cars of all time are sedans and hatchbacks and wagons. I drive a truck because I need a truck, as explained above. I mourn the fading era of sedans and hatchbacks and especially station wagons (my favorite form factor!). I’m not arguing in favor of a car-free/trucks only future. But as someone who closely follows the industry, I see it as inevitable. There will of course still be sports cars and tiny urban cars, I believe. But your mythological “Camry is the most popular car” days are gone.

It won’t be instantaneous. But it is far along.
posted by spitbull at 6:19 AM on June 12 [1 favorite]


I also believe luxury sedans will continue to exist. And the extensible platform architecture now taking over the industry could mean a future in which you have far greater choice in final form factor as long as it can be fitted to a standard chassis skateboard. So all hope is not lost.

But if you love sedans, buy one soon. A Camry hybrid bought today will give you 20+ years of service — possibly out past the easy availability of gasoline fuel in every part of the country. You will not have the selection you have now for that much longer.

Mazda just canceled the Mazda6 in the US.
posted by spitbull at 6:24 AM on June 12


There are only 3-4 actual stations wagons available on the US market. Buick just canceled the only affordable one. The others are luxury cars.

Mazda makes a beautiful wagon version of the 6 for Australian and Asian markets. Almost certainly had they brought it to the US it would have sold 20k units a year for a while as the only really good choice under about $45k (it would run about $30k, same as the canceled Buick Tourx just canceled) for the tiny niche market for affordable station wagons. Every Mazda buff I know dreams of getting their hands on the 6 wagon — it’s truly a beautiful car that looks a lot better than the already pretty sedan, with far better utility. If they sold it here I’d have bought one in cash instead of my hatchback 3.

However Mazda has explained not bringing the wagon to North America as not worth it in terms of having to approve the vehicle for emissions, crash testing, and service support. And it’s just the wagon version of their standard mid-sized sedan. Literally it only differs in having a rear greenhouse and lift gate in place of a trunk and back window. Everything else is the same.

The US makes it too hard to sell a low volume car for which there is a market unless the margins are high enough, as they are for luxury car prices.

On balance that may be a good thing, but in any case “some people will buy it” isn’t a sufficient business case.
posted by spitbull at 6:31 AM on June 12 [1 favorite]


Oh here’s some eye candy:

Mazda6 Station Wagon (To be fair those are custom aftermarket wheels…)

It is a damn shame we can’t buy this car in the US for ca. $30k. And it gets 35mpg easy.

Just saying, I’m on team “cars.”
posted by spitbull at 6:41 AM on June 12 [3 favorites]


Oh wow that’s a great looking wagon.

(Also a wagon/hatch fan:: Current car: GTI; previous: Saab 92-X (a rebadged WRX wagon).
posted by notyou at 8:54 AM on June 12


A Mazda6 station wagon was available in in the US in the early 2000s, up to around 2007. Very few were sold so it was discontinued, as was the 6 hatchback.
posted by leaper at 11:01 AM on June 12


Indeed and pre-2007 6 wagons with a V6are sought after in good shape. Alas they were from the Ford partnership years and don’t have the reliability of later Mazdas.

Still the current 6 wagon you can get in Vietnam or Australia is a singularly good looking car.
posted by spitbull at 12:53 PM on June 12


"Sales of midsize cars — Camry, Accord, etc. — have fallen off a cliff in just the last two years and relative to overall sales (independent of pandemic effects). They’re now at under 9% of all new cars sold."

If you haven't had kids in car seats in the last decade, it's almost impossible to overstate how much car seat laws increase the size of car you HAVE to drive.

We had to move from a Ford Focus to a Mazda 5 when we had a second child, because it was literally not possible for my husband to put the front seat back far enough that his knees weren't in his chin with rear-facing seats in the back. The four of us COULD NOT FIT in a sedan. Most states now require children to be rear-facing until they're TWO YEARS OLD, and rear-facing seats can be really hard to fit in compact sedans, period.

Add a third child, and you're mandatorily in a three-row car. You basically cannot fit three car seats across (let alone access all three seatbelt buckles when three car seats are installed) and my state -- like many states -- requires kids to be in full-harness car seats until five, and bulky boosters until they are eight years old. You also can't really carpool with other families, because you're constantly having to install and remove car seats, or put a designated car seat permanently in one of the seats of your car just to pick up another six-year-old from first grade and take the two of them to soccer.

There are some real questions about safety data for rear-facing seats past age one, and very little data to support boosters rather than seat belt adjusters. We are cautious parents about our children's safety (we even limit how much driving we do because it's dangerous for child passengers!), but it's really freaking frustrating that on the basis of limited data and the desire of car seat companies to sell more car seats and the desire of American policy makers not to make driving safer in a general way and reduce our reliance on it, we force families with children into much bigger cars than necessary just to accommodate the car seats. And we've removed the ability of families to do a simple thing like carpool. Thirty years ago, at after-school pickup, you might see one mom picking up three or four kids -- two of her own, a couple more who live down the block -- and the moms would rotate. Now every single one of those moms is in her own car at pickup, BECAUSE OF THE DAMN CAR SEATS. If I offer to pick up my nieces and nephew from school because their mom has a late meeting, it is literally easier for my SIL and I to swap cars than for us to fuck around with the car seats.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 2:48 PM on June 12 [9 favorites]


MetaFilter: Great article and post, but this thread is extremely depressing.
posted by Tehhund at 3:24 PM on June 12 [1 favorite]


Consumer Reports: The Hidden Danger of BIG Trucks: Pickup trucks are getting larger and becoming a hazard to pedestrians and drivers of smaller vehicles

The thread may be depressing if one finds hearing of pedestrians and vehicle safety depressing. To me it’s part of the design and engineering of a machine like this.
posted by romanb at 10:45 PM on June 13


If you haven't had kids in car seats in the last decade, it's almost impossible to overstate how much car seat laws increase the size of car you HAVE to drive.
_____

The Hidden Danger of BIG Trucks: Pickup trucks are getting larger and becoming a hazard to pedestrians and drivers of smaller vehicles

I have had kids in the last decade, but not in North America and child seats and seatbelts are pretty much optional most of the places I have been. It's a strange tradeoff, where by regulation now you have to have the SUV for the car seat space, and yet $%#&^ the pedestrians, they are little people.
posted by Meatbomb at 5:41 AM on June 14


Eyebrows McGee: If you haven't had kids in car seats in the last decade, it's almost impossible to overstate how much car seat laws increase the size of car you HAVE to drive.

Can attest: after our second child arrived, we only owned a nice, little Corolla -- so we took a tape measure with us to the Toyota dealer and looked at "Whatever you have that's used, under 30k miles, and fits thiiiis much in the back seat." And not long after we bought a minivan when we needed to fit a third kid.

Still driving that sweet, silver 05' Camry to this day -- currently, our third child pilots it to high school and work!
posted by wenestvedt at 11:48 AM on June 14


There are only 3-4 actual stations wagons available on the US market. Buick just canceled the only affordable one. The others are luxury cars.

Yes, when I was looking to buy a car after my first kid was born 9 years ago I wanted a station wagon. There was a VW Golf Wagon and that was it unless I wanted to buy an Audi for significantly more money. Even Volvo has stopped offering station wagons now. If Subaru offered a Legacy wagon here I would have gotten that but as they don't my choice ended up being between the Subaru Forester and Toyota Venza and I ended up going with the Forester.

When I got the car I said that it would be my kid's when she turned 16 and that I'd get an electric car and that's looking to be an accurate statement. The Forester should be able to hang on for another 6 years and by then there'll be the F150 Lightning, Cybertruck, and hopefully a few other smaller choices that offer similar capabilities.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 5:34 PM on June 14


My partners Forester is also their "I really wanted to get a station wagon, but no one is selling them here" car.
posted by Dr. Curare at 9:15 AM on June 15


We managed to fit our two kids (two years apart in age) in the back seat of our VW Golf with car seats, but it took a lot of searching to find car seats that would fit back there. Most of them are huge. We ended up paying a premium for car seats with a compact design. Still cheaper than getting a bigger car.
posted by fimbulvetr at 11:16 AM on June 15


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