2022 Ford F-150 EV
Jimmy Dinsmore's picture

Tesla Cybertruck Is No Threat To The Ford F-150

Tesla’s Cybertruck may have high pre-order demand, but will those converted orders come from Ford’s bottom line? Best-selling vehicle in America, Ford F-150, is poised for their own electric truck.
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There was some chatter online, especially a question on Quora, that gave me an idea for a story. One Quora user asked, “Can Tesla put Ford out of business with the cybertruck?” My very short answer to this is: No way!

On Torque News' YouTube Channel, we broke down this question about the Cybertruck's viability. Check out the video here.

There’s no question that Ford is facing its biggest financial hardship in company history, or at least close to it. But the Blue Oval survived the Great Depression and the Great Recession (without taking a government bailout loan) and they will find a way to weather the current pandemic-induced financial storm.

Without a doubt, the F-150 is the key to their success through this financial hardship. It’s the number-one selling vehicle in America. The profits alone from the F-150 keep Ford liquid and viable (they just need to resume production and begin selling trucks again).

When Elon Musk, ever the showman, unveiled the Tesla Cybertruck last fall it was full of fanfare. It generated buzz on the internet and Twitter. These are Musk and Tesla’s key demographic.

The young, hip Tesla company has shaken the automotive industry to the core, or at least they now have everyone’s attention. So it makes sense that someone would ask the question, with Ford on the financial ropes, can the Cybertruck do in Ford.

Let’s take a look at few things that weigh into this formula and show why the Cybertruck won’t affect Ford’s bottom line.

Tesla Cybertruck

Ford F-150 vs. Tesla Cybertruck By The Numbers
Last year, Ford sold more than 900,000 F-150s and that number has remained around that volume for the last several years prior.

In 2019, Tesla’s entire vehicle lineup sold just over 192,000 units. Despite Ford F-150 sales being down more than 13 percent the first quarter of 2020, the F-Series alone still sold almost the same number of units as Tesla’s entire product line last year.

These numbers don’t lie. Tesla has a tiny market share. I asked my friend Tim Esterdahl who has a truck-devoted YouTube Channel and is one of my go-to truck experts if he thought the Cybertruck could challenge the F-150 at all. His response was clear and left no gray area: “The Cybertruck is not going to sell a traditional truck buyer. It won’t challenge Ford in the least.”

Esterdahl has been a vocal critic of the Cybertruck on his YouTube channel. And verified that when he said: “I see the Cybertruck has having no real impact on any truck sales. It is an oddball vehicle and not really a truck, in my opinion.” He concluded by vehemently stating: “It’s more of an insult to track fans.”

Production Capacity is the Big Problem For Tesla
Ford has the production facilities in place to make pickup trucks. They’ve perfected this process over the truck's long history. Musk has discovered that the automobile manufacturing process is tedious and full of complications. Plus Musk has had a less-than-pristine reputation of over promising and under delivering.

He’s had many growing pains during the infancy stage of Tesla. Trying to jump into the truck manufacturing business will be an immense challenge. Tesla doesn’t even have a production facility set yet for the Cybertruck.

Musk hasn’t even settled on where the all-electric truck will be built in the U.S.. So there are still plenty of obstacles ahead for Tesla. The website InsideEVs.com estimated that Tesla might be able to manufacture around 62,000 units per year at maximum, optimal capacity.

That number falls way short of the so-called orders for the Cybertruck which allegedly are now anywhere between 250,000 and 600,000. Even Musk said that the demand was significantly higher than their estimated production capability.

Even on the low-end of these orders with the rough estimate of the production capability, Tesla would fall 3-4 years behind their own demand versus production output. Imagine if Ford said, we don’t have any F-150s available to sell, you’ll have to wait 2 years for one. That would surely be a recipe for failure and would cost the F-150 the best-selling crown.

As such, in sheer volume production Ford has the upper hand (by a lot). My Torque News colleague and electric vehicle writer summed it up: “Despite the giga name Tesla has so little capacity compared to the volume of F-150 Ram and GM’s trucks that I don’t think the Cybertruck can mathematically impact Fords sales in the next 5 years.

Ford home charging station

Charging Networks
Tesla has made huge progress when it comes infrastructure. Their Supercharger network has revolutionized the electric vehicle market. You can drive a Tesla across the country with little range anxiety, with access to Supercharger stations throughout America.

Ford recently announced their plans to create a similar network. They’re certainly behind Tesla in this regard. Ford trademarked the name Fastor Charge recently. The name was met with ridicule from many in the EV world, but it shows Ford is committed to electrification.

Having fast-charge stations at dealerships is not enough. Neither is having home-charging stations. Range anxiety or the thought of it at least, is a concern for the average consumer. The fringe EV buyer, which is NOT a typical truck buyer, understands that range anxiety isn’t that big of a deal, if you have a Tesla. But if you want the EV F-150, where will you charge it, other than at home or a dealership?

With Ford committing to the Fastor Charge network it could help their push toward electrification.

2022 Ford F-150 EV – pros and cons
I’ve written extensively about the all-electric F-150 that’s coming. I even tried to figure out who might be the ideal buyer of the electric F-150. And guess what, I don’t believe those buyers would even consider the Cybertruck.

The biggest question that remains unanswered about the 2022 Ford F-150 EV is range. A couple electric vehicle forums I read estimated the F-150 EV would have a range north of 300 miles. If true that would still fall short of the estimates of the Tesla Cybertruck which has been rumored to have range of up to 500 miles.

Likewise towing capacity and what effect that will have on the range remains the single biggest question Ford will need to address. Ford showed off their prototype EV F-150 towing nearly a million pounds. It was a publicity of course, but it did show that an EV F-150 could be quite capable and will certainly be incredibly torquey.

The final, and perhaps the biggest issue will be price. This is where Tesla might have the edge and be able to shave off some of the F-150 truck buyer. Today’s pickup trucks average more than $50,000 and upwards of $75,000 for fully-loaded trucks.

Many readers say they’re too expensive, and yet the consumer continues to buy them up. So the market hasn’t hit that proverbial ceiling yet. I’d imagine the EV F-150 will be pricey.

Musk is claiming a single-motor RWD Cybertruck will have a starting price of under $40,000. If that’s the case, Tesla might have a positive impact on the truck market. Price matters and having a less-expensive, albeit fringe truck as an option might put some pressure on Ford to be very, very careful about the price of the forthcoming EV F-150.

My Final Take
I write a lot about the F-150. I like to think I understand the market and the consumer for trucks. And I generally agree with my friend Tim Esterdahl who definitely has his finger on the pulse of the truck segment. The Tesla Cybertruck will not put Ford out of business. I don’t even believe it will take a chunk out of the F-150 market.

Ford will likely get to market on their EV F-150 at the same time as the Cybertruck, or maybe even before Tesla. Even if the price is higher, the one thing that will work against the Cybertruck as far as traditional F-150 buyers go is looks.

The Cybertruck’s crazy, goofy styling will repel the average truck consumer. Elon’s team went too far with the styling and shows that he does not understand the truck segment at all. And Ford most definitely understands the truck market better than anyone else.

Let me hear your take. I'm sure some of the Tesla fans out there will feel differently, but I'm pretty confident in this take. Leave me a comment and let me know your thoughts.

Jimmy Dinsmore has been an automotive journalist for more than a decade and been a writer since the high school. His Driver’s Side column features new car reviews and runs in several newspapers throughout the country. He is also co-author of the book “Mustang by Design” and “Ford Trucks: A Unique Look at the Technical History of America’s Most Popular Truck”. Also, Jimmy works in the social media marketing world for a Canadian automotive training aid manufacturing company. Follow Jimmy on Facebook, Twitter, at his special Ford F-150 coverage on Twitter and LinkedIn. You can read the most of Jimmy's stories by searching Torque News Ford for daily Ford vehicle report.


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Comments

The Quora question was obviously designed to provoke a response. And it is good to talk about the future of EV trucks. This was my response on the TorqueNews YouTube channel: A better question is: What effect do you think that Tesla's Cybertruck will have on Ford? I think that the greatest impact will simply be a push to actually build an electric F150. Like most legacy automakers, Ford has no history yet of building profitable EVs. So why would they take the risk on their number one selling vehicle? (the F150). And the answer is competition. Without EV competition, Ford, GM, and Chrysler would most likely never change. Certainly not with the current economic disarray, EPA backsliding, and cheap gasoline. But Tesla showed that there is a real demand for EVs with their successful Model 3, and now with the Model Y crossover. Their Cybertruck had more preorders than Tesla can actually produce for the next few years. Which definitely got Ford and GM's attention. The Cybertruck's preorders showed that hundreds of thousands of buyers would potentially pay between $40K and $70K+ for an EV truck (despite it's controversial styling) and the fact that it may still be as much as 2-3 years away from production. Ford was impressed enough with potential EV truck demand that they invested in Cybertruck's rival Rivian. And GM also responded by re-introducing the Hummer as a reborn EV truck. Happily, Tesla does not have any gas powered vehicles that their EVs would have to compete against for market share (as opposed to all legacy automakers), so they have a focused commitment to build EVs which can actually compete against all of the world's most popular current fossil fueled vehicles. And as Tesla succeeds, it drives legacy automakers to become serious about building competitive EVs themselves.
To be clear, I'm a big Tesla fan. Love their product line, love Elon Musk. And I do like the effect they have on the auto industry. But they are still very much a nothing burger in units sold and doesn't have the capacity to change that. I don't honestly think he wants to change that.
Ford will go bankrup by itself. Their debts are insane and their market is shrinking each year. Tesla, at the opposite, is growing at exponential rates. It's amusing how people like you believe in faitytales like an electric Ford truck, or a meaningful Ford equivalent to Superchargers, and still pretend Tesla solid numbers are not there Time will show you where is reality standing
Indeed I'm not a fan of Ford's current leadership. Going in the wrong direction for sure.
"in 2019, Tesla’s entire vehicle lineup sold just over 192,000 units" Nope, 365,000 or thereabouts. OK perhaps doesn't destroy your argument but important to be accurate when that far off. "Ford will likely get to market on their EV F-150 at the same time as the Cybertruck, or maybe even before Tesla." Looks like Ford has delayed the EVF150. I would bet on Tesla being first. I agree theres going to be a world of difference between the two types of buyers and will not be many looking at both **were it not for the pricing**. Cybertrucks pricing is going to cause Ford a really big issue in terms of profitability of their EV. If its 30-50% more (quite likely, look at Rivian) that will start to put a dent in Ford sales and Teslas limited production capability might be the only thing helping Ford out for a while. Then again where will ford get their batteries from?
I have heard nothing about the EV F-150 being delayed. You're right about where will Ford get the batteries from. That's where Elon is dominant. But let's look at Musk's track record on manufacturing cars, he's overpromised and under delivered for sure! No reason to think it will change when he tries making a truck. Agree 100% on the pricing being the real challenge to Ford. That could be a win for the consumer. Thanks for your feedback!
I have no idea what you are referring to saying that Musk's track record is poor now. The Model 3 was the 6th best selling car in the U.S. last year. Not the 6th best selling EV, the 6th best selling car overall. And despite the awful pandemic conditions, the Model Y was produced and available to buy more than 6 months before Tesla promised, and it's sales have been brisk. That is under promising, and over delivering. And even though the Tesla factory closures in the U.S. have delayed the production and release of the Cybertruck, it most likely will still come out before Ford actually builds their EV150. Many people share my disappointment that Ford's upcoming F150 hybrid will not be a plug-in model. And that setback makes me believe that Ford will now wait to release the EV F150 until well after Rivian builds their EV pickup, and they can source the EV components from them. GMC will probably release their Hummer pickup before the EV 150 ever gets built, and I'd bet with Ford running lean that the EV 150 gets shelved until 2022 at the soonest. Putting it a year behind the Hummer and Cybertruck. GM is building a huge battery factory with LG, and Tesla is about to set the world on it's ear with their upcoming battery tech. We will have to see how Ford moves forward with their Mach-E production before we see if they are actually going to be serious about building EVs. I would love to be surprised. In contrast, I have no doubt that Tesla will try and satisfy building the huge pre-order demand of the Cybertruck. Importantly they only need to satisfy 5% of the truck market to be a huge success overall. And they have shown that level of success already with the Model 3 and Model Y. And that actual sales success is the reason why every major automaker now is offering or planning to offer EVs. There has never been a serious threat of EVs overthrowing fossil fueled cars overnight, but if EVs get to taking 10% of the market it will be a tipping point that will forever change the auto industry.
According to KBB.com the Model 3 was the 24th-best selling vehicle with 180,000 units. Not bad, but that's like one month of sales for F-150. To be clear I'm not a Tesla hater. But the premise of this was ridiculous. F-150 accounts for $50 billion in sales for Ford. That's just F-150. Tesla hasn't made that much with all their product line. Obviously they're still an upstart. And as far Musk's poor track records, he's had major production issues with his factory, by his account telling Gayle King that he way underestimated how difficult car factories were to maintain. So yeah, I stand by the statement. Again, not a Tesla hater, but they're a nothing burger in comparison to the F-150.
The Model 3 sales numbers for 2019 were 190,000, and that actually put it in the #7 slot of best selling cars, and #9 if you count in SUVs. Now light trucks and other vehicles (like the F150) are excluded in that comparison, but then again those vehicles are not competing against the Model 3 for sales. My point was that despite the EV market being relatively small, the impact of the Model 3's relative success in it's class was huge, and far reaching. If you look at the Cybertruck, I have no illusions of it taking a big bite out of F150 sales. But I bet that it will have a huge impact in the truck market overall, and it will push the production of the Hummer and EV F150 out earlier. It is quite possible that without Tesla in the marketplace there would be NO production Hummer truck or EV F150 built in the first place. Also the major production issues that you mentioned were only with the very first Model 3s, and it is important to mention that those were the first really high volume production EVs that Tesla built. Production of the Model 3s smoothed out within the first year, and we saw no manufacturing or production issues with the Model Y (until the factory shutdowns), and again there were no big production problems in the brand new Gigafactory building Model 3s in China, despite it being a brand new factory, and being built in a foreign country. I agree that the F150, and the Silverado, and the Ram trucks have little to fear from the relatively low volume Cybertruck, when it does get built. But equally I will bet that you will be very surprised when it's relatively small sales numbers end up having a far greater impact on the truck market that you would believe now. I will happy bring up your "nothing burger" comment when that time comes.
Super fuzzy math, excluding all the top-selling vehicles. Tesla has their niche. But they're just that a niche. I just don't see it changing drastically. again, I'm a fan of Teslas. They're a blast to drive. And I love companies like them that push the old-school way of thinking. It will be good for the industry. I think we loosely agree here, believe it or not. But that cybertruck needs a total redesign. It's hideous and looking like that will never be taken seriously by real truck owners. And it has nothing to do with electrification. It's all about the looks.
The past is not a model for the future, especially as Tesla gains capacity and mass production expertise. Model Y deliveries were supposed to start at the end of 2020, but they started shipping in Q1. Also, the above commenter is correct on the 2019 unit production numbers are nearly double your quote (367,000), so you might want to correct that. I'm not sure that making the truck depart from the traditional truck looks is a much a liability as you think. When these start showing up on work sites powering electric and pneumatic tools all day, there is going to be a lot of interest. Also, the cybertruck will be simple to manufacture (same motors as existing products, very similar electronics, simpler frame and body, no paint), so it's a bit odd to assume a 60K/yr production rate from a brand new line. Check out phase two factory construction in Shanghai - they are not messing around when it comes to ramping capacity.
Be very careful with your assumptions. I own an F150 and I like it. I have never owned an EV. I have a reservation for a CyberTruck. Why? 1) Gas is expensive. 70+% of my kilometres travelled in an EV could be from electrons pumped in at home (for 1/4 the price per km of gas). 2) transfer cases suck. Separate motors for front and rear wheels provides many advantages, especially off-road. 3) current trucks have virtually no climate controlled storage if you have a family on board- stuff in the box either freezes or bakes. 4) Search up CyberTruck suspension - neat features and smooth ride + huge payload. Leaf springs suck.
Thanks for the comment. I will definitely be interested to hear more from you about how the ordering process goes and when you get your truck how you like it. I'm interested in it. I like people who push the envelope. I love Elon Musk. But I standby my sentiment that it won't eat any of the F-150 segment.
Honestly I think the styling is intentional move to not grab the F150 audience., and I don't think it shows he doesn't understand the truck market at all. I think it shows he absolutely does understand the truck market. He also knows he can't make 400 thousand of these things a year. I don't even think its his vision to grab the F150 customers. In fact I think he wants to appeal to a completely different smaller community of buyers, and has intentionally built this thing to appeal to the market that he has the capacity to service:; his community. And in doing so he will make them happy, while proving to the rest of the industry that they can follow suit, with a capable truck.
That is a good assessment and I agree with you.
Forget styling. The paraphrase deep throat, follow the money. Electric Trucks will be cheaper to run both in gas savings and maintenance. Everyone grudgingly understands current ICE vehicles are designed to need constant dealer maintenance. Can any other manufacturer profitably make EVs without being vertically integrated and support dealer margins? If you think the only thing stopping Tesla from taking over is their ability to produce in volume, look at the speed they have built Shanghai and will build Berlin and Austin. A better limiting factor and still the limiting factor for all automakers is the ability to get batteries. Tesla is also doing the same thing that Apple did to cell phones. Remember Nokia, Ericsson etc. They made phones, Apple started making portable computers/entertainment devices that also were phones. Pretty soon the nice to have features will become irresistible. Cheaper to run, over air updates, self driving that makes driving 50% safer, you will feel like a bad parent choosing and ICE car for your kids. Oh yeah and no nasty emissions saving the planet by saving money.
Last thought on this question. The achilles heel for EVs is towing. Battery densities need to improve to at least 600Wh/kg. EVs that pull heavy loads can have their effective range at 1/3 of their normal range. For the Tesla semi and trucks that need to tow longer ranges this is an issue. Still betting the future of Ford and all other manufacturers on Tesla's inability to create adequate production volume and that battery densities will not increase is a loosing proposition.