The Ford F-150 Lightning's Pullback Shows That The Rules Have Changed

After spending much of 2022 and 2023 trying its very best to rapidly increase production of F-150 Lightnings, Ford is cutting its planned electric truck output for 2024. Like a lot of the recent belt-tightening from auto manufacturers, the news underscores how much rockier the zero-emission transition will be than we all previously thought.

But it also highlights something else: How difficult it is for automakers to gauge demand for brand-new models with brand-new electric underpinnings. 

Ford now plans to produce 1,600 Lightnings per week in 2024, down from the previously planned 3,200, Automotive News first reported. It’s becoming increasingly clear that the old ways of determining consumer appetite don’t always apply in this new electric world, Sam Fiorani, Vice President of Global Vehicle Forecasting at AutoForecast Solutions, told InsideEVs.

Moreover, the kinds of vehicles that Americans have historically lined up for won’t automatically be a hit among EV shoppers.

“Right-sizing production to balance the supply and demand is a new equation for every company,” Fiorani said. “It was tough enough when Ford had to estimate the market for a traditional SUV in an established segment, but now there are more variables since nobody has accurately gauged the true number of EV buyers.”

Evidently, just because a certain vehicle is extremely popular in its gas-powered form—Ford sold well over 600,000 F-Series trucks in 2022, and that was a weaker year—that doesn’t mean it’ll be equally popular as an EV. That’s the lesson the auto industry is learning as the nascent EV market matures, Fiorani said.

“The whole transition to EVs is a mystery, and so everybody’s learning who’s in the market and who’s not in the market,” he said. “Are pickup truck buyers looking for an electric vehicle? Or are economy car buyers looking for an electric vehicle?”

That makes perfect sense, given that the calculation has changed for buyers too. On top of weighing usual factors like brand, style, and price, EV buyers need to think about things like range, charging speed, and tax credits. EV shoppers are less likely to stay loyal to a specific brand than other buyers. 

The Lightning, the new electric twin to America’s most popular vehicle, was widely hailed as the truck that could take EVs mainstream upon its unveiling in 2021 and subsequent launch the following year. For a while, demand for it seemed practically limitless, and Ford announced ever-higher annual production targets.

This year, the company again boosted production capacity at its Dearborn, Michigan truck-making plant, allowing it to crank out Lightnings at a rate of 150,000 per year. Now Ford seems to think it can’t find buyers for that many trucks. 

In response to the Automotive News report, a Ford spokesperson told InsideEVs that the company will “continue to match Lightning production to customer demand.”

That’s been the prevailing theme among automakers as of late, as firms like Ford, General Motors and Volkswagen slow down their electrification ambitions amid what they label weaker-than-expected demand. Despite the bumps in the road, it’s important to note that the electric car market, both in the US and globally, is booming. Americans have already bought a record 1 million electric cars this year.

Moreover, the Lightning isn’t doing too shabby either. In November, Ford notched its best month of electric F-150 sales yet by handing off 4,400 trucks.