Ford F-150 Lightning will be first all-electric pickup truck to offer full-size spare tire
As the panting and drooling over upcoming all-electric pickups continues to dominate social media chatter among consumers and investors, just about everyone seems to be buzzing about Tesla, Rivian and Ford these days.
Ford revealed the Lightning on May 19 and while details involving the battery and other specs remain elusive, that stops no one from talk about what they do know.
There is one potentially huge accessory the Ford F-150 Lightning will offer that others won't: a full-size spare tire.
Not a little bitty donut tire that offers just enough support to limp to the nearest tire shop in prayer that it doesn't bust en route, but an actual full-size spare that allows the truck owner to replace and continue with business uninterrupted.
While it may sound trivial, it isn't trivial at all.
Full-size spares aren't unusual on traditional internal combustion engine pickups including the Ford F-Series, Chevrolet Silverado, Ram 1500, Toyota Tundra and Nissan Titan. But the all-electric pickup is an entirely new game.
Tesla has not provided spares in its luxury electric vehicles as a standard benefit to date in order to limit weight while also providing free roadside assistance, and the company has said customers don't mind.
Ford says their customers don't view the truck as a luxury lifestyle product or a toy.
The F-150 is a lifeline for working men and women.
"... A temporary donut spare tire won’t work when you’re far from pavement or roadside assistance with places to go and jobs to do," said Mike Levine, Ford North America product communications manager.
Ted Cannis, CEO of the Ford Pro business and government unit, tweeted on May 24, "When we talked to our customers, they insisted that we fit the full size spare!"
Early images of the Lightning show the spare neatly tucked under the bed, clearly visible to drivers from the rear. The front trunk, also known as a frunk, is reserved for massive storage.
No one knows truck customers like Ford after nearly half a century of building a bestselling multi-billion-dollar brand.
"They didn’t just throw the full spare in on a whim. That's a lot more mass, weight, cost, assembly time. But if that really matters to your customer, you put it in. You have to give the customer what they want," said John McElroy, host of the "Autoline After Hours" webcast and podcast and a veteran industry analyst. "Ford has done an astute job of prioritizing what goes in this truck."
Full-size spares in all vehicles were universal until the “space-saver” or donut spare tires were introduced, said Jonathan Klinger, vice president of car culture at Traverse City, Mich.-based Hagerty, the world's largest insurer of collector vehicles.
"In fact, many early cars through the 1920s could have more than one full-size spare tire as tire troubles were far more common during the early days of motoring," he said.
There were temporary bans on spare tires in any new vehicle due to rubber shortages during World War II and the Korean War.
Separate and apart from the Ford F-150 Lightning, spare tires have played a key role with Ford and other automakers.
"The side mount spare tire — a tire mounted on the front fender — was a common feature into the 1930s," said Matt Anderson, transportation curator at The Henry Ford museum in Dearborn, Mich. "The idea remained on trucks even longer. It was just a convenient space to put the spare — convenient for accessing it, and convenient in that it didn’t take up space in the trunk or truck bed."
When reviewing archival photos, he said, spare tire history becomes obvious to the classic car aficionado.
"The one true Ford thing is the 'continental kit' spare tire, seen on the back of Lincolns," Anderson said. "That idea goes back to the original Lincoln Continental of 1940-48, hence the name. This put the spare tire in a case mounted on the rear bumper, behind the trunk. It was a design cue used in each generation of Lincoln Continental 'Mark' series cars going into the 1990s."
Nash Motors used continental kits in the 1950s, but it’s an idea most closely associated with Ford — both because of the Lincoln Continentals and because of its use on the first generation 1955-57 Ford Thunderbirds, Anderson said.
"The spare tire is one of those long-running complications for which automakers have tried to find — but never quite have found — a fully satisfactory solution," he said.
Edsel made him do it
Ted Ryan, Ford's archives and heritage brand manager. said, "(Eugene) "Bob" Gregorie, the designer, wanted to hide the tire but Edsel made him put it in the trunk with the shape visible. It was daring and became a design classic."
And people have been trying to fix the damn roads forever.
"In the early days of the automobile age with the rough and rudimentary roads, spare tires were a necessity because of the threat of a blowout," Ryan said. "The early spares were often visibly stored on the running boards. Edsel Ford famously incorporated the spare into the design of the Continental as form and function were combined. The more sophisticated modern designs have effectively hidden the spare, but its core functionality has not changed in the intervening century."
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