2021 Ford F-150 Looks Like A Huge Winner

NOTE: A version of this article was first published on or about June 26, 2020, on my Seeking Alpha Marketplace site.

My very first take on the sort-of all-new 2021 Ford F-150 (NYSE:F) that was unveiled on June 25, and will be available before the end of the year, is that everything we learned was very positive. The major caveat here is of course that we need a proper in-person examination, test and comparison against the competitors, such as from General Motors (NYSE:GM) and RAM (FCAU) in order to render a full and final verdict.

With those caveats out of the way, let’s examine the major changes to the 2021 Ford F-150:

Exterior design: Flawless

This is often the first and most important step to a redesign of an existing product such as the Ford F-150. In this case, really the only thing people will notice is the face of the car – straight from the front and in profile — and that “little thing” is of crucial importance. In my opinion, Ford hit a home run with the new face of the F-150: It looks flawless. If the 2021 F-150 story stopped right there, it may be enough to declare the whole operation a victory.

Interior design: Catching up to RAM 1500

This is the area where Ford had its greatest challenge with the 2021 F-150, and we all know why: RAM 1500. The RAM came out in March 2018 and is universally considered the leader in interior design, by a wide margin.

Everyone expected Ford to close the gap with the 2021 F-150, for all the obvious and necessary reasons. So, the bar was high.

How did it do? The answer is slightly inconclusive for the simple reason that I have not yet had the opportunity to examine the F-150 interior in person. We have to rely on photos here, as well as this seemingly exclusive in-person video, from Kelley Blue Book: 2021 Ford F-150 | First Look

There’s just so much about textures, feel, shapes and materials that you can’t judge when not inside the vehicle, the more time, the better. That said, what we can see is looking very good, and that Ford may have indeed met its target of catching up with RAM – at least 30 months after the current generation RAM 1500 became available in U.S. dealerships.

It starts with the steering wheel. In the outgoing F-150, the steering wheel controls were as plastic and flimsy as could be. It looks like the new F-150 gets a far better-looking steering wheel with far more stable buttons. Not a day too soon.

The overall design of the instrument panel, dashboard, and center stack has predictably been improved. People will focus on the 12-inch screen that will be outfitted on approximately the upper 50% of the F-150 versions. For what it’s worth, it looks great. It doesn’t seem to have any of the glare that bedevils so many other touchscreens in the business, but I would have to verify that in person.

The other major interior invention is the collapsible transmission shifter in combination with the fold-out laptop table. This feature will be a huge winner among almost all buyers, and I am surprised nobody in the industry had implemented it before.

Ford already had the best front seats and seating position in the pickup truck industry. It’s been the only one with massaging seats also. This time, Ford takes it to the next level with a fully reclining seat that adjusts for sleep comfort. Again, this could be a major selling point for the F-150 against the competition.

Engines: Just a few things that are new

I noted three things that were new on the 2021 F-150 engine front:

  1. The base engine – 3.3 liter V6 gasoline – gets the 10-speed transmission as standard, up from the previous 6-speed.

  2. The 5.0 liter V8 diesel engine gets cylinder deactivation for the main purpose of improving fuel economy.

  3. The big news is, of course, that there will be a hybrid variant of the 3.5 liter V6 turbo. No fuel economy numbers were released.

The power tool output of the 2021 (hybrid) F-150

Ford has been talking for years about the 2021 F-150 getting an onboard generator that could feed power tools. The major point of the hybrid F-150 here is that it can support a lot more power for these tools.

Actually, it’s not only about power tools. Imagine the possibilities for RVs and campers. This will significantly increase the attractiveness for the F-150 as an overall “mobile house” platform. It even ties into the sleeper seats in the front, and the laptop table.

In any case, this power out-take of the F-150 will most certainly be a huge winner for customers. It’s something that’s so obvious that one has to wonder why it hasn’t been part of this kind of (pickup truck) product for the last 50-100 years already.

The final remaining caveat: Manufacturing quality

Ford ended up with a huge problem in 2019 with the Ford Explorer and Lincoln Aviator (sister vehicles) suffering from manufacturing issues in the Chicago plant. This cost the company dearly.

It should be noted that the other main U.S. Ford product launches of 2019 – the Escape and the sister vehicle Lincoln Corsair – were not impacted by any of those problems. So, it was a problem apparently confined to two sister vehicles in a single factory, Chicago.

Still, the Chicago catastrophe means that investors are rightly on guard for any new major Ford product launch at this point. Most investors probably think that Ford has learned from the Chicago problems, and that the F-150 will not suffer from any of those problems. However, one must have at least some lingering doubt until we see evidence to the contrary, and that could take until December this year or more. We probably will not have any signs either way, until then.

Bottom line: It’s all looking very good for the 2021 Ford F-150

With all the caveats about in-person evaluation and factory quality being too early at this point, one thing is clear to me: All of what we saw and learned about the 2021 Ford F-150 looks like a huge success. I saw absolutely nothing that made me disappointed or worried.

The main ingredients of the 2021 F-150 success are these:

  • An outstanding exterior design with no mistakes.

  • Bringing the overall interior design up to RAM 1500 standards.

  • The laptop table.

  • The 180-degree sleeper seats.

  • The hybrid engine.

  • The onboard generator with massive power out-take for tools, RVs, campers and all sorts of other things.

Now, all we have to do is wait, approximately six months, plus or minus, for a fuller evaluation of what we simply cannot know about the 2021 F-150 at this point.

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Disclosure: I am/we are short TSLA. I wrote this article myself, and it expresses my own opinions. I am not receiving compensation for it (other than from Seeking Alpha). I have no business relationship with any company whose stock is mentioned in this article.

Additional disclosure: At the time of submitting this article for publication, the author was short TSLA. However, positions can change at any time. The author regularly attends press conferences, new vehicle launches and equivalent, hosted by most major automakers.

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