Ford employees will produce the electric F-150 Lightning pickup on December 13, 2022 at the automaker’s Ford Rouge Electric Vehicle Center (REVC).
Michael Wayland | CNBC
DETROIT – A faulty battery that caused a company-owned Ford F-150 Lightning to catch fire earlier this month isn’t the only problem the Detroit automaker has recently experienced with its new all-electric pickup .
On Jan. 27, a week before the fire, the company issued a “customer service promotion” for a small group of vehicles to have parts replaced to prevent “performance loss” of the high-voltage battery. Ford Motor said the problem has only affected about 100 vehicles so far and is unrelated to the Feb. 4 fire. Ford said it is monitoring the vehicles remotely and will proactively contact customers when the company discovers the problem.
Despite the small number of affected vehicles, it adds to a pattern of problems that Ford and other automakers have as they invest billions in bringing electric vehicles to market quickly. Many of the industry’s problems have been minor. But when it comes to the vehicles’ costly and complex batteries, financial problems and serious safety issues—particularly fires—can arise.
For Ford, the problems with the F-150 Lightning are part of ongoing quality and operational issues, as CEO Jim Farley explained to investors days before the fire broke out at a Ford holding company.
“We have deep-seated problems in our industrial system that are hard to eradicate,” he said on Feb. 2 during a fourth-quarter earnings call. “Frankly, the strength of our products and revenues has long masked this dysfunction. It’s not an excuse, it’s our reality. And we’re dealing with it urgently.”
Ford, which executives said was the most recalled automaker in the past two years, isn’t alone in having problems with its latest EV launches.
Toyota Motor had to recall its first mass-produced global electric car last year due to the risk that the wheels could come off. General Motors recalled all of its Chevrolet Bolt EV models two years ago due to fire issues. Others, such as Hyundai, BMW and Volvo, have also recalled electric vehicles, including plug-in hybrids, in recent years due to fire hazards.
To be clear, concerns about fire are not exclusive to EVs, they have historically been issues for the auto industry and continue to be. Stellantis’ Ram Trucks this week announced a recall of 340,000 large diesel pickups to replace an electrical connector after reports of six fires.
Ford’s Jan. 27 notification was issued for a problem with the battery module, which may first show a “wrench” warning on the dashboard before slowing to a subdued performance mode or, in the worst case, becoming immobile due to failure to switch to driving.
“This is not a safety reminder. This is a proactive investigation to prevent customers of the identified vehicles from experiencing battery performance degradation and to obtain field parts for evaluation,” Ford spokesman Marty Gunsberg said in an emailed statement.
The number of “customer service actions” Ford has issued for the F-150 Lightning since its April 2022 launch was not readily available.
Ford, as advised to customers, is replacing “certain high voltage battery module(s)” of the vehicles with new parts free of charge to correct the problem. According to information provided to at least one customer by a “CXS, Ford Concern Team Battery Electric Specialist”, the repair will take one day.
Regarding the issue that caused the fire and led Ford to halt production and shipments of the vehicle early last week, Ford said it is not aware of any incidents or issues related to vehicles already in dealerships or customers. are delivered.
Ford said Wednesday it believes engineers have found the cause of the fire. The investigation into the problem is expected to be completed by the end of next week, followed by adjustments to the truck’s battery manufacturing process, which “could take a few weeks”.
The F-150 Lightning is being closely watched by investors as it is the first mainstream electric pickup on the market and a major launch for Ford. The company is in the process of nearly doubling vehicle production capacity at a plant in Michigan to 150,000 units by fall 2023.
Ford is not releasing production data for the F-150 Lightning, but the company sold more than 2,200 vehicles last month. In 2022, Ford reported sales of more than 15,600 units of the vehicle.