In recent weeks, Ford has experienced a range of issues with its new all-electric pickup truck, the F-150 Lightning. While a defective battery caused one of the vehicles in Ford’s possession to catch fire earlier this month, the company also issued a “customer service action” on January 27th for a small group of vehicles to have parts replaced in order to “prevent performance degradation” of the high-voltage battery.
According to Ford, the problem only affected approximately 100 vehicles so far and is not believed to be connected to the Feb. 4 fire. However, this issue adds to a pattern of problems that Ford and other automakers are experiencing as they invest billions in rushing electric vehicles to market. While many of the issues have been minor, they can become serious safety concerns – specifically, fires – when they involve the costly, and complex, batteries of the vehicles.
This is not exclusive to Ford, as other automakers have also faced similar issues. For example, Toyota Motor had to recall its first mass-produced global EV last year due to a risk of the wheels coming loose, while General Motors recalled all of its Chevrolet Bolt EV models two years ago due to fire issues. Hyundai, BMW, and Volvo have also recalled electric vehicles, including plug-in hybrids, due to fire risks in recent years.
It is important to note that fire concerns are not exclusive to EVs, as they have been a problem for the auto industry historically and continue to occur. For instance, Stellantis’ Ram Trucks recently announced a recall of 340,000 large diesel pickup trucks to replace an electrical connector after reports of six fires.
Ford’s Jan. 27 notice was issued for a battery module problem that can first show a “wrench” warning on the dash before slowing down into a restrained performance mode or, at worst, becoming immobile by not shifting into drive. However, Ford has stated that this is not a safety recall and is a proactive investigation to help prevent customers of the identified vehicles from experiencing a degradation in battery performance and to obtain field parts for evaluation.
The company is replacing “certain high-voltage battery module(s)” from the vehicles with new parts free of charge to address this issue. The time needed for the fix is one day, according to information provided by a “CXS, Ford Concern Team Battery Electric Specialist” to at least one customer. The amount of “customer service actions” Ford has issued for the F-150 Lightning since its launch in April 2022 was not immediately available.
Regarding the issue that caused the fire and prompted Ford to halt production and shipments of the vehicle early last week, the company has said that it believes engineers have found the root 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 production process that “could take a few weeks.”
The F-150 Lightning is being closely watched by investors, as it is the first mainstream electric pickup truck on the market and a major launch for Ford. The company is in the process of nearly doubling production capacity of the vehicle at a Michigan plant to 150,000 units by fall 2023.
Ford does not release production data for the F-150 Lightning. However, the company sold more than 2,200 of the vehicles last month, and in 2022, Ford reported sales of more than 15,600 units of the vehicle. Despite the ongoing quality and operational issues outlined by CEO Jim Farley to investors, Ford remains committed to resolving these issues urgently and delivering a safe and reliable vehicle to its customers.