Large and heavy, the design has remained almost unchanged for decades: no other type of vehicle is as anachronistic as the pick-up truck. But he is particularly successful in the USA. Pick-ups, of all things, could now become the number one move for the mobility turnaround in the world's largest car market.
Tesla, Tesla, Tesla and in between a lot of Nissan Leaf, VW ID4, Porsche Taycan and Hyundai Ioniq - whether in Los Angeles on the west coast or in New York on the east coast: The mobility revolution has long since begun on the streets of the USA and the electric car has become indispensable.
But if you look inland from the coast, you see a completely different picture: It's five in the afternoon and the Atwoods parking lot in Waco is full. You hardly see any cars here. Outside the rustic sporting goods and farm supplies superstore are almost exclusively pick-up trucks, Ford F-150s, Chevrolet Silverados, Ram 1500s and the Toyota Tundra, which is produced a few hundred miles away. Over in front of Homstead Farm, a mixture of museum village and farmer's market for well-travelled tourists, and at Magnolia Market in the city center same picture. And even in Houston, with 2.3 million inhabitants the fourth largest city in the USA, the few SUVs and the rare notchback limousines in front of the Brick House Tavern near the airport get lost between the huge flatbed trucks.
Welcome to truck country, welcome to Texas. While electric cars are still a rarity here and you can count the number of Tesla sightings a day in places like Waco on one hand, Dallas and Houston alone sell a fifth of the up to two million pickup trucks that are sold in the United States every year get on the street. Even if Tesla, of all people, has just moved its headquarters to the oil and cattle state, the mobility revolution is not quite there yet. And that's not much different in the other states of the Midwest.
One who wants to change that is Darren Palmer. He heads the development of electric cars at Ford and has now put the F-150 Lightning on the wheels, perhaps the most important Ford since the Model T: just as practical and robust as a conventional F-150 and with a basic price just under $40,000 just as well cheap, the flatbed truck with up to 580 hp promises a range of more than 500 kilometers in the best case and with its 98 or 135 kWh battery it also buffers the family power for three days when the lights go out at home in the country of unstable power supply.
"This is the real deal, the real big thing," Palmer is convinced. After all, the F-150 has been the best-selling car in America for almost half a century. "We are opening up a completely new target group for electromobility and paving the way for it to spread throughout society." Because it is extremely unlikely that the Americans would ever give up their pick-up and switch to other, even smaller vehicles: the pick-up is firmly anchored in the people's soul and, as a modern version of the covered wagon, is as much a part of America as beer and burgers and baseball. But since the USA is still the largest automotive market in the world - especially since China is in the corona lockdown - US CO2 emissions are also more than relevant for the rest of the world.
The F-150 is not the first electric pick-up. Because Tesla has been peddling the idea for over two years, although there is only one copy of the Cybertruck so far. And Rivian has had its R1T on the market since last fall. But the Lightning is the first truck that aims at the masses and will therefore also score here in Texas, for example. It is not for nothing that local dealers, who sell 1000 F-150s a year, sometimes report over 200 pre-orders. "And there could be a lot more if Ford hadn't closed the books since December because they seem to have been overwhelmed by demand in Detroit," complains Casey Ogletree, head of sales at top dog Jordanford in San Antonio.
That fits into the picture for Martin French. He is a US partner at the Munich strategy consultant Berylls and attributes huge importance to electric mobility to pick-ups. Almost three million pickup trucks are produced and sold in the United States every year. "People love them for their practical virtues, their size and their comfort and for the fact that they can tow just about anything," says French, and images arise in the memory, like even the space shuttle after the last flight from a pick-up truck -Truck was pulled into the museum. "And the enthusiasm extends well beyond the rural states of central America," says the analyst. "These are not just commercial vehicles, they are everyday cars for millions of Americans in the city and in the country." It's no wonder that no type of vehicle makes up a larger proportion of the total stock than the flatbed truck.
The enthusiasm was correspondingly great when Tesla presented the Cybertruck for the first time almost three years ago. And the Rivian R1T, which made its debut at the Los Angeles Auto Show in November 2019, was also loudly applauded. But not everything went smoothly afterwards: While Elon Musk can be seen again and again in the prototype, the Tesla boss has just postponed the production of the cybertruck again and nobody expects it to be on the road before 2023.
And while Rivian is experiencing wild ups and downs on the stock exchanges, production of the R1T is only getting started slowly and is well below the 150,000 Lightning that Ford wants to build per year, even in the official plans. For good reason: After all, the newcomer is more aimed at the electric elite than at medium-sized companies. "Just like a Ford Mustang and a Porsche 911, the two cars may be similar on paper, but nobody would seriously compare them because both have completely different claims and a different target group," Ford manager Palmer sorts the market .
The fact that Ford is already coming with the F-150 Lightning and that the Chevrolet Silverado will also be electrified as the eternal number two on the US market next year, possibly even before Tesla finally brings its pick-up, is not just the overdue return carriage of the old ones Autowelt for the startups from California. According to French, it could finally convince the Americans that the future of the car is electric: "There are still many challenges for the infrastructure, but now the EV train has finally left the station," says the analyst: " And there's a lot to suggest that the F-150 Lightning is his new engine."