DETROIT — Ford Motor plans to double production of a hybrid version of its F-150 pickup truck as the company grapples with slower-than-expected sales of its all-electric vehicles.
Ford expects to increase sales of the V-6 hybrid model during the 2024 model year to roughly 20% in the U.S. The automaker declined to release specific production figures, but it likely equates to tens of thousands more of the hybrid vehicles.
Achieving that production target may be more difficult than usual, as Ford and its crosstown rivals face a potential strike by the United Auto Workers later this week that could shutter some or all of their U.S. factories. Ford, General Motors and Stellantis must achieve separate deals with the UAW for 146,000 autoworkers by 11:59 p.m. Thursday to avoid potential work stoppages.
The hybrid plans follow Ford CEO Jim Farley saying in late July that the Detroit automaker would quadruple the company’s production of gas-electric hybrids as it continues to increase EV production but at a slower pace than previously announced.
“We are balancing growth, profitability and returns,” Farley said during an earnings call. “At the same time, we believe demand for our internal combustion and our hybrid portfolio will be durable with the window of growth … potentially longer and richer than most expected.”
Kumar Galhotra, president of Ford’s traditional “Blue” business unit, said Tuesday he believes the F-150 could become the best-selling hybrid in North America, a crown historically owned by Toyota Motor‘s RAV4 or Prius.
Ford’s renewed focus of hybrid vehicles, including pushing back a target to hit 2 million by 2026, may be good for the union, as it retains many engine manufacturing jobs for the foreseeable future.
Hybrid vehicles typically include internal combustion engines with small batteries that can improve performance and fuel economy. They differ from plug-in hybrid electric vehicles that have larger batteries and need to be plugged in like all-electric vehicles to utilize the benefits of the electrification.
Ford declined to release specific pricing for the 2024 F-150 with a 3.5-liter V-6 “PowerBoost” hybrid model, which is at least a $2,500 option on current models and standard on a roughly $83,000 F-150 Limited model.
John Emmert, Ford truck general manager, said the decision to increase production followed demand for hybrid models outpacing production capacity for the F-150 and Ford Maverick small pickup. For the Maverick, hybrids amount to more than 60% of its sales.
“I certainly think that hybrid, our PowerBoost hybrid, help folks transition into full electric,” Emmert told CNBC. “Hybrid is a step toward electrification, and for some people right now that electrification isn’t the best solution for them.”
This isn’t the first time Ford has announced a dramatic change in its engine lineup to boost fuel economy and performance. The automaker is well known for its twin-turbocharged EcoBoost engines, which many questioned when announced for the 2011 pickup but now powers a majority of F-150 vehicles sold.
“We build an F-150 for every use case for every customer’s needs,” Emmert said, citing some customers still need V-8 engines for towing and range, while the all-electric F-150 Lightning may not be ideal for some in rural areas.
Ford said the hybrid engine will be available for the same price as the company’s 3.5-liter V6 EcoBoost engine.
The doubling of F-150 hybrid production was announced in connection to Ford revealing a refreshed versions of the truck for the 2024 model year. Ford said the entire lineup will start at $35,570 but declined to release other details. The 2023 F-150 starts at $34,585.
The F-150 hybrid will feature an available 430 horsepower and 570 lb.-ft. of torque. Ford said the hybrid will offer the most of any F-Series pickup outside of the Raptor and Raptor R V-8 performance models, however it did not release the full range of specifications.
Aside from exterior and interior updates, the 2024 F-150 includes a new tailgate design that allows customers to access the vehicle’s bed like a traditional door as well as a traditional drop-down tailgate and a host of new safety and convenience features.