Electric Pickup Trucks: Could Ford and GM Outdo Tesla?


Sep. 16 2019, Updated 11:38 a.m. ET

Competition in the electric pickup market is heating up, and there hasn’t been even one launch yet. Legacy automakers Ford (F) and General Motors (GM) are set to take on established EV (electric vehicle) maker Tesla (TSLA) and startups such as Rivian.

Overall, Ford’s US sales have been dropping, but its truck sales have been rising. Last year, Ford’s F-Series marked its 42nd straight year as America’s bestselling pickup truck. Competition in the US pickup truck market is fierce. General Motors, Toyota Motor (TM) and Fiat Chrysler (FCAU) are also fighting for market share and profitability. Fiat Chrysler’s Ram pickup truck and GM’s Chevrolet Silverado compete directly with Ford’s F-Series trucks.

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Competition in the electric pickup truck category

EV makers are now jumping into the fray to grab a share of the lucrative pickup truck market. Tesla has announced an electric pickup truck. And Rivian, a startup backed by Amazon (AMZN) and Ford, is working towards making the R1T, an electric pickup truck, by late 2020.

Ford’s electric F-150 plans

Ford and GM are doing all they can to preserve their dominance in the pickup truck category. Ford has announced an electric version of the F-150, set to launch sometime in 2021. In July, the company released a video of the truck towing 1.25 million pounds. Ford is reportedly investing $11.5 billion in electrifying its vehicles by 2022.

During an interview with Reuters, Ford chairman Bill Ford discussed electric pickup trucks, saying, “This is going to be a real watershed for the whole industry.” Reuters reported that “Ford hinted the truck could have load-carrying space under the hood in addition to the traditional bed in the back.” He said, “You pick up all that extra space where the engine compartment has been.”

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One question on everybody’s mind, however, is the potential demand for electric trucks. Ford, for one, believes that the opportunity could be huge. Reuters reported that Galpin Ford dealership president Beau Boeckmann said, “We’re going to be shocked.” He added, “I think the electric pickup truck has a huge future.”

General Motors’ electric pickup truck plans

In April, General Motors said that it was also developing an all-electric truck. The production for that vehicle, however, is still a few years away. According to WardsAuto, GM president Mark Reuss said in June, “We will have a complete electric lineup, including a pickup truck that’s in development.”

For now, other Detroit automakers don’t have big plans for electric pickup trucks. Fiat Chrysler has not committed to any plans, while Toyota Motors is working on a gas-electric hybrid pickup truck. According to Reuters, citing a person familiar with Toyota’s plans, “The sliver of volume that’s going to be electric pickups is not worthy of a business case.”

Electric pickup trucks could help legacy automakers protect their stronghold and meet emission standards. However, competition from EV makers is expected to be fierce, too.

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Tesla’s electric pickup truck to give strong competition

CNBC reported in June that Tesla CEO Elon Musk said Tesla’s pickup truck “will be a better truck than an F-150 in terms of truck-like functionality, and be a better sports car than a standard [Porsche] 911. That’s the aspiration.” Musk recently suggested that Tesla could unveil its first pickup truck in November, and analysts expect its launch in 2022.

During a podcast in June, Musk said the pickup would be under $50,000 and have a 400–500 mile range. While Tesla doesn’t have experience in pickup trucks, its EV expertise may give it an edge over legacy automakers.

Competition from Rivian’s R1T

Another strong challenger to legacy automakers and Tesla in the electric pickup truck category could be Rivian’s R1T. The startup has attracted investments this year from Amazon and Ford. And most recently, Cox Automotive invested $300 million in Rivian. In November 2018 at the Los Angeles Auto Show, the company unveiled its R1T pickup truck and R1S SUV, which are set to have a range of 400 miles. Rivian is planning to launch them in the US in late 2020. For more on the company, read New Rivian Investment: Could It Be the Real Tesla Killer?


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