DEARBORN, Mich. – Ford Motor is expanding hiring to increase production capacity for its all-electric F-150 Lightning pickup as it begins building prototypes of the electric pickup.
The Detroit automaker said Thursday that it plans to invest an additional $250 million and add 450 jobs across three Michigan facilities, including the Rouge Electric Vehicle Center that’s building the truck, to increase annual production capacity for the vehicle to 80,000 units.
Ford has now invested about $950 million in production of a hybrid version of the truck and the electric F-150, which is scheduled to go on sale next spring starting at about $40,000.
More than 150,000 reservations have been made for the vehicle since its debut in May, up from 120,000 at the end of July, according to Ford.
Production and reservations for the F-150 Lightning are being closely watched by investors and industry analysts as a barometer for consumer acceptance of electric vehicles, specifically pickups, which dominate sales in the U.S.
“We knew the F-150 Lightning was special, but the interest from the public has surpassed our highest expectations and changed the conversation around electric vehicles. So we are doubling down, adding jobs and investment to increase production,” Ford Chair Bill Ford said in a release.
A handful of automakers are expected to offer electric pickups in the coming years. Amazon– and Ford-backed start-up Rivian earlier this week became the first automaker to enter what’s expected to be a hotly contested segment.
General Motors is expected to get its EV pickup to market next with the GMC Hummer EV rolling off assembly lines this fall. EV start-up Lordstown Motors and Ford are expected to follow next year along with Tesla, which recently pushed back deliveries of its Cybertruck from this year to late 2022.
Pre-production, or prototypes, are used by companies for testing and validation ahead of assembling vehicles that are used for certification before actual production for consumers.
Inside Ford’s Rouge Electric Vehicle Center, the company is just beginning to build pre-production models. A limited amount of the pickups have actually been produced at the plant in Dearborn, Mich., but officials said assembly will ramp-up over time.