F-150 Lightning reservations are so huge Ford had to stop taking them
It's not uncommon in New York or San Francisco for a new mom to put her baby's name on a years-long waiting list for a coveted private preschool slot.
Well, now wannabe owners of the all-electric Ford F-150 Lightning find themselves in a similar battle.
Put a name on the list and hope and pray that name makes it to the top. Because, right now, the list is so long that some fans of America's bestselling pickup franchise won't get the 2022 model year and will need to wait until 2023 or even later.
The current demand for the all-electric Ford F-150 Lightning is so huge that Ford Motor Company has actually stopped taking the $100 refundable reservation deposits accepted since the global reveal in May.
"We're completely oversubscribed with our battery-electric vehicles, Lightning especially," Ford CEO Jim Farley told Jim Cramer on the CNBC Investing Club on Thursday during a livestream broadcast.
"The F-150 Lightning, America's bestselling vehicle. Everyone loves the electric version. They haven't even driven it yet," Farley said between meetings with his board of directors at Ford World Headquarters in Dearborn, Mich. "Wait until they drive it. Zero to 60, like a 911 (Porsche). It's just an incredible product. It powers your house for four days. We had to stop reservations, we got so many."
Ford has so many reservations for the Lightning that, if they all turned into purchases, the volume would far exceed the company's capacity to fill orders.
"We stopped at 200,000," Farley told CNBC, explaining the art of "capacitizing."
Ford plans to build 70,000 to 80,000 electric pickups initially, Farley said, "We're gonna to try to double that. ... Don't bet against Ford when we have to increase capacity. This is what we do."
Official orders will begin getting booked in January. And delivery of the battery-operated vehicle is scheduled to begin in mid-2022.
Tweaking the system to meet demand
Ford will begin working down its reservation list and "inviting" people if they want to convert to an order; if so, the process will begin. If people decline, the next name on the list gets invited to purchase.
"And so on," said Hannah Ooms, Ford spokesperson.
"A reservation allows a customer to be invited to place an order as production becomes available," Ooms said
"For Lightning, the ordering process will be unique. Due to the extraordinarily high demand. Ford is implementing a waved invitation approach to efficiently convert reservations to orders. Reservation holders will be invited to place orders at staggered dates so we can more easily provide directional delivery timing to customers during the order process. Reservation holders will receive an invitation to order via email from Ford. The number of customers invited will vary by wave."
There is no set number of waves in the invitation process, Ooms explained.
The number of waves will be adjusted throughout the process based on available commodities and customer order rates from each previous wave, she said.
"Invitations to order a 22MY (2022 model year) will continue to be sent to reservation holders until 22MY production is fulfilled. Remaining reservationists will be invited to order in subsequent model years," Ooms said.
But all hope is not lost as Ford works to ramp up production.
"We continue to work to break constraints and increase volumes quickly for future model years," Ooms said.
John McElroy, host of "Autoline After Hours" podcast and webcast, said Friday the Lightning debunks the idea that the public lacks interest in electric vehicles.
"While some people complain that the government is trying to shove electric vehicles down their throat, Ford had to stop taking reservations for the F-150 Lightning because it couldn't keep up with demand," McElroy said. "It's crazy. Half the public thinks EVs are stupid and the other half can't get one soon enough."
Farley downplayed the challenges ahead, telling CNBC that the automaker has a strategy to produce electric vehicles. Challenges with the semiconductor chip supply aren't the same, he said.
"Look, we'll get semiconductors," he said. "That's a matter of prioritizing the BEVs (battery electric vehicles) over the ICE (internal combustion engine) vehicles. The issue is batteries. That's what we have to solve."
Farley continued, "We don't want to build these vehicles in tents. We want to build them in our beautiful Rouge facility where my grandfather worked. That's not the issue. We can put more shifts of workers on. Our UAW members are ready to make these vehicles. We have to find batteries."
The reference to tents is about Tesla, which has faced production challenges and turned to the use of large tents at its California facility to deal with space constraints.
Ford, Tesla and other automakers are working to ramp up battery access and production. Ford announced a massive investment in battery operations this year, in Michigan as well as Kentucky and Tennessee.
"In 24 months, we're going to double our capacity for these battery electric vehicles" Farley said. "We're well on the way to doing that. We've got a lot of incremental battery commitments out of our Georgia facility. We really think we can do it. And my name is on the line."
Cramer of CNBC pushed Farley about speed of production and the competitive landscape, specifically top electric carmaker Tesla run by CEO Elon Musk.
"We have to scale, get to a million units, as quickly as we can in the next couple of years. And we have to make money, more money than we make on our ICE products. That's the math. That's what motivates this team to get up in the morning," Farley said.
Meanwhile, Ford's early 12% investment in the startup truck maker Rivian is now valued at more than $10 billion, and that doesn't hurt Ford financials, Farley said.
Cramer asked if Farley has a "get Musk squad" mission.
"Look, I'm a race car driver. Second place is the first loser. That's how I look at business," Farley said. "Ford employees deserve the best leadership. Our investors are betting on this company. So, you should expect us, as we go battery electric, we can really reinvent the brand. We're doing that with F-150 Lightning."
He added, I can't keep track of the other racers. All I know is there's one finish line and we are motivated to get there more than anytime I've ever seen in the company's history."
Potential buyers who want a Lightning are asked by Ford to sign up for "Get Updates" at the Ford.comF-150 Lightning homepage so that Ford may provide updates on when orders will be accepted from non-reservation holders for later years.
The starting price of the Lightning is around $40,000. It's built in Dearborn, Michigan.