Tesla Cybertruck rival Ford F-150 Lightning firms for Australia

Local conversion to right-hand drive could be the way the Ford F-150 Lightning electric pick-up truck makes it on-sale in Australia.

The Lightning’s Aussie prospects have been boosted by the establishment of a new assembly line in Melbourne that has started converting left-hand drive petrol F-150s imported from the USA to right-hand drive for sale through Ford dealers from November.

The Ford-backed program is a global first and is being run and primarily funded by the Thai vehicle modifier RMA.

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Ford Australia president Andrew Birkic has previously admitted interest in the Lightning but went a step further by confriming an investigation was underway into the local sale of the dual motor all-wheel drive Lightning after a media tour of the facility last week.

“Have we have had some preliminaries? Yes. Are we are intrigued by it because of what it offers? Yes.”

But Birkic also played down the extent of the investigation into Lightning.

“I think we have to do more work on it. Is there a market? Yes; are their user cases? Yes, without a doubt I am sure there is. What we know is in Australia we are going to see a greater level of [EV] adoption.”

Birkic said further investigation into Lightning for Australia “will come in the fullness time”.

2023 Ford F-150 Lightning.
2023 Ford F-150 Lightning.

“We just need to prove that we can do the remanufacturing [to right hand drive], we can do it with a lens on quality, our customers love it and in the field in six months [after launch] that what we know the quality is good.”

The Lightning is not top priority for the new Melbourne facility, which is currently ramping up production of four different versions of the F-150.

It is already starting to prepare for the model year 2024 F-150 update which has already been revealed in the USA.

The heavy duty F-250 and F-350 diesel pick-ups are also on the likely to-do list with other variants of the F-150 such as the Raptor high-performance off-roader of interest. Another potential local conversion is the Ranger-based Bronco SUV.

Separate to all this Ford Australia has commenced a plan to roll out five electrified vehicles by the end of 2024. The E-Transit electric van is already on-sale, the Mustang Mach-E electric crossover is soon to launch, the E-Transit Custom and the Puma EV will arrive in 2024. A plug-in hybrid Ranger ute has also been confirmed for 2025.

2023 Ford F-150 Lightning.
2023 Ford F-150 Lightning under construction at the Rouge plant.

Lightning was among the first electric full-size pick-ups to go on-sale in the USA. The Chevrolet Silverado EV is launching now, while the Tesla Cybertruck  should also commence deliveries this year. The RAM 1500 REV is scheduled for 2024.

Initial Lightning production fell way behind demand but that has started to balance out more recently as Ford builds up assembly line capacity to 150,000 units per annum.

That’s good news for Ford Australia, as it would have to source built-up Lightnings from the River Rouge Plant in Michigan and ship them to Australia for local conversion.

Another full-size Ford pick-up based on a simpler new EV-specific platform and built at the new Blue Oval City plant in Tennessee is scheduled for 2025, further expanding production and availability. The Lightning could be discontinued as soon as 2026, US authority Automotive News suggests.

“One of the key elements of the formula is … can you get supply?” Birkic said. “They are [Lightning production] fully spoken for and they are building that large facility. Once all those pieces fall into place then there may be opportunities.”

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