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A special edition F-150 Lightning could be a harbinger of what's to come
The 2024 Ford F-150 Platinum Black Edition suggests a subtle, significant shift in EV sales
Ford is reaching into its bag of truck tricks with the 2024 F-150 Lightning Platinum Black Edition. Limited to 2,000 units and priced just under $100,000, the arrival of a limited edition with custom aesthetics—rather than improved performance—could signify a subtle but significant shift in the electric truck market.
The Platinum Black Edition takes a standard, close to fully loaded truck and adds a few optional extras and a host of special cosmetic parts. The most obvious is a matte black wrap from the factory. Fully warrantied, it covers a glossy Agate Black paint and is the first time Ford has offered a wrap on a production pickup truck. Black Ford ovals and other badging add to the allure.
Every option box has been checked, partially to add to the all-black-ness, including power running boards, a tonneau cover, and a spray-in bedliner, all of which hide any sign of the standard gloss black paint. The net effect is a truck that would make Hotblack Desiato proud, though there's not too much here (aside from the exclusive badging) that enterprising truck buyers couldn't do themselves. But still, a "limited" run of 2,000 numbered units could entice some folks to get a midnight-ified Lightning.
Ford says it will reach an annual run rate of 150,000 F-150 Lightning trucks at its Rouge Electric Vehicle Center outside Detroit by this fall, producing 70,000 Lightnings in calendar 2023. The company says it's driving down order times, noting that the increase in capacity will allow for models with "visual differentiation."
It's a significant and impressive ramp in production capacity and at least partially explains why we're seeing this special edition now. However, it's curious that Ford only put this on the top-of-the-line Platinum trim. Standard F-150 models offer a Black Appearance Package that is available across a host of trims, not just the most expensive. It may be that Ford is seeing weakness in demand for its top-tier trucks or, perhaps more likely, that only someone buying a $90,000 truck would see value in an extra $3,000 for a matte black wrap.
The arrival of the first special edition electric pickup is reminiscent of the countless "special edition" trucks that have come over the years. The legendary Ford F-150 has come in Harley-Davidson, Dallas Cowboys, and King Ranch brandings — though only that last one still sticks around, and the cowboy-themed King Ranch (licensed from a Texas ranch that remains the largest in the United States, bigger than the state of Rhode Island) remains one of the most popular trim levels in the lineup.
Since it came out, consumer demand for the F-150 Lightning well-outstripped supply, simply on the basis of it being an electric F-150. As Lightning production increases, and competitors like the Tesla Cybertruck and Chevy Silverado EV edge closer to market, it may take more than simply being an electric truck to move units. Adding a special edition like this could tug at the emotional heartstrings of both buyers who were already considering an electric truck, and those who might stumble across it in the showroom.
In the early days of electric trucks, ownership itself was a badge of novelty and exclusivity. With tens of thousands of these on the road, plus hundreds of thousands more EVs from other carmakers, Ford may need something more unique to attract a more discerning consumer who's less impressed with the fact that it's electric and is looking for something unique.
Historically, truck buyers could walk into a dealership and have their pick of the lot, and special editions were a staple — countless truckmakers have offered various "Texas Editions," among many other things. With electric trucks, that hasn't been the case. This Platinum Black F-150 harks back to a time-honored tradition in truck sales—enticing buyers with exclusive packages, reviving a sales strategy that seemed to wane with COVID-era supply chain shortages.
Over the past month or two, as supply gains and economic concerns like higher interest rates affect car loans — more than 30 percent of auto loan applicants were rejected in the past year, according to the New York Fed, a record — EV inventories on dealer lots have crept up. If that trend continues, expect more traditional sales tricks like special editions and aggressive pricing incentives to make the transition to the EV world.
So, is this a new dog performing old tricks or an old dog learning new ones? Either way, Ford's limited edition F-150 Lightning could very well be a bellwether for how electric trucks will be marketed and sold in the future. The message seems clear: as more electric trucks arrive on the scene, don't expect one-size-fits-all.
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