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Thursday, November 30, 2023
Nov. 30, 2023

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Ford teases ‘Project T3,’ next-gen electric pickup to be built in Tennessee


“Trust the Truck.”

That’s the saying behind the code name of the next-generation F-Series truck Ford Motor Co. will build at its under-construction, $5.6 billion mega-campus in West Tennessee. The Dearborn automaker on Friday offered its first teaser on the product that will be built at BlueOval City, revealing that it is codenamed ‘Project T3.’

The teaser came ahead of an event executives will host on the campus later Friday morning, where they will highlight construction progress ahead of the operation’s 2025 opening and a workforce development initiative aimed at preparing some 6,000 people to take on jobs there. The initiative encompasses K-12 STEM programs, postsecondary education partnerships and technical training.

Ford also revealed that, at full production capacity, the EV assembly plant on campus will be capable of making some 500,000 electric trucks a year.

Ford has yet to offer any other details about the truck that will be assembled there. It will be a follow-up to the automaker’s inaugural battery-electric pickup, the F-150 Lightning, production of which launched last spring at the historic Rouge manufacturing complex in Dearborn. The automaker is working to ramp up production of the Lightning.

“Project T3 is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to revolutionize America’s truck. We are melding 100 years of Ford truck know-how with world-class electric vehicle, software and aerodynamics talent,” CEO Jim Farley said in a statement.

“PJ O’Rourke once described American pickups as ‘a back porch with an engine attached.’ Well, this new truck is going to be like the Millennium Falcon — with a back porch attached,” he added. “The manufacturing process will be equally breakthrough, with radical simplicity, cost efficiency and quality technology that will make BlueOval City the modern-day equivalent of Henry Ford’s Rouge factory.”

The new truck is being developed alongside the plant’s construction — an arrangement that Ford says is resulting in manufacturing efficiencies. The assembly plant, for example, has a 30% smaller footprint than traditional plants, but a higher production capacity.

Lisa Drake, Ford’s vice president of EV industrialization, said in an interview that the truck will be the second product in Ford’s lineup of next-generation EVs.

Ford executives have said the company is developing its second and third generation of EVs, with lessons learned from products like the F-150 Lightning and Mustang Mach-E helping to drive improvements. The automaker is targeting an 8% earnings margin on its EV business by 2026, which investors got more insight into Thursday.

“We have learned so much, because we’re out there first now with a fully-scaled electric pickup. The amount of information that we’re learning about how we source the materials, how we build the truck, how the customers are using the truck, how they’re interacting with it digitally, the types of connected services they may want now that they have a vehicle that can do so much more … than their prior F-150,” said Drake. “We will have had our second bite at the apple on trucks, almost at the same time when many of our competitors are just bringing out their first one. And that’s what makes the product in Tennessee so exciting.”

“We’ve had a huge opportunity to learn already,” she added, “and that second-generation product will be very different than today.”

Ford is building the campus with joint-venture partner SK On, a South Korean company that will work with Ford to build battery cells and arrays and assemble them into battery packs at a plant on site that will supply the EV assembly factory.

In all, the 3,600-acre campus will include the battery plant, the EV assembly operation, a supplier park and an upfit center.

BlueOval City is slated to play a key role in Ford’s $50 billion electrification plan. The company is targeting an annual production run rate of 2 million EVs by late 2026.

The operation comes with approximately 6,000 jobs. To make sure they get filled, Ford announced Friday that it’s launching a program called BlueOval Learning.

Some of the initiatives included in BlueOval Learning include Ford helping to expand STEM-related curricula in K-12 schools; bringing advanced manufacturing equipment and program development to schools in three local counties; helping to expand certifications and dual-enrollment opportunities for high school students; partnering with colleges and universities on co-ops and internships; working with higher education institutions to provide advanced manufacturing, EV and battery manufacturing training; and adding a $40 million training center on site, supported by a state grant.

Ford is building another EV battery plant in Marshall, Michigan. The automaker is investing $3.5 billion for the operation that is slated to include 2,500 jobs. The wholly-owned Ford subsidiary will use technology licensed from Chinese battery company Contemporary Amperex Technology Co. Ltd., or CATL, to make lithium iron phosphate batteries. Ford executives have said that diversifying the battery chemistries in their portfolio is key to driving efficiencies in the automaker’s EV business.

BlueOval City will produce nickel cobalt manganese batteries.

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