Reports out of Detroit allege the big three U.S. carmakers are each debuting two new vehicles at the September’s Detroit Auto Show. Ford CEO Jim Farley told analysts in a call discussing Q2 earnings that introductions of new and updated products, and new trims, will come quicker. Farley said on the call, “We plan to introduce, for example, an all-new F-150 and F-150 PowerBoost hybrid at the Detroit Show in September.” We think that description’s a bit of hype for analysts; the 14th-generation F-150 debuted three years ago, there’s no reason to expect an all-new truck. We believe there’s a facelift on the way in September that will touch nearly every trim in the F-150 lineup, from XL to Raptor R.
Between spy prototypes and rumor from insiders, we can expect the usual cosmetic tweaks like new headlight and taillight patterns, new grilles, redrawn bumpers, and new wheels. On those latter two subjects, Ford Authority says it heard certain F-150 trims will get the option of a modular bumper like the one that can be had on the Ford Bronco, perhaps made to fit a slew of new third-party parts, and there are new 22-inch wheels on the way. In back, a new multi-function tailgate might make lives easier for the work crew. Inside, the Google-based infotainment system might get its debut on new screens that take portrait and landscape orientations depending on truck trim and package.
As to that hybrid, Farley made it clear on the call that novel hybrid designs have stepped to the front of the electrification roadmap. He told the group on the call, “you’re going to see a lot more hybrid systems from us, but don’t think of them in the traditional sense of an Escape hybrid or Prius. They’re probably going to come to light differently than the people think, and customers like that.” We don’t know what that means for the F-150 PowerBoost headed to Detroit beyond the clarification that these won’t be PHEVs. Farley’s comment came after he discussed how buyer and owner preferences are shaping what Ford focuses on. The wider story even outside of Ford is that while the public is interested in EVs, growing costs and growing MSRPs are choking EV uptake in the U.S. and Canada. The CEO said Ford’s experience in China shows “that there’s an infinite number of degrees of electrification in between” hybrids and battery-electric vehicles, encouraging Ford to “continue our hybrid investment in our heavier vehicles,” understanding that heavy-vehicle buyers appreciate power sources outside those used to propel the vehicle.
This approach will alter Ford’s EV intentions across the product lineup, not just trucks. That is, the EV transformation is still underway, but the power’s been turned down just a bit as industry and customers get on the same page, and as industry remains mindful of profit margins and Wall Street observation. Farley said on the call that “the pricing pressure has dramatically increased in the past 60 days,” but that Ford won’t be lured into selling loss-leaders just to make sales. Every vehicle needs to contribute to the profit margin target. “I will tell you that it’s very important to know that Ford strategy is not to build compliant vehicles that are very affordable for acquisition cost but lose lots of money,” he said. “That’s not our strategy when it comes to electrification. Our strategy is to make 8% margin irregardless of the price point, and we’re going to allocate capital along those lines.”