Ford CEO says automaker is sold out of electric vehicles: What it really means

Phoebe Wall Howard
Detroit Free Press

As soon as CEO Jim Farley said the words, they hit the Twittersphere:

"We are sold out for a couple years now," he said.

Farley, on stage for a CERAWeek energy conference discussion streamed live March 10 from Texas and sponsored by S&P Global, was talking about his road map to transform the 118-year-old company into an electric vehicle leader.

Ford CEO Jim Farley talks during a CERAWeek energy discussion livestreamed Thursday, March 10, 2022 from Texas.

The moderator asked: How are things going with the Mustang Mach-E?

Farley didn't skip a beat.

"It’s totally sold out. We’re just completely overwhelmed. I mean, we have the chip supply thing, that makes it worse. But we’re completely oversubscribed," he said. "Actually, in all of our electric vehicles, we are sold out for a couple years now. So we’re very fortunate that we made that choice to go into those passion products."

So, is Ford really sold out of its electric vehicles?

Let's slow down a minute and look at the whole situation.

Why Ford is seeing quick adoption

The semiconductor chip shortage has crippled the auto industry and other manufacturing sectors. Ford even announced in recent days a plan to start shipping Ford Explorer SUVs without the chips that allow for heat and air conditioning control in the rear seating area.

But the overall situation remains fluid and complicated: Electrifying the names of vehicles already established as part of Americana — the iconic Mustang and the bestselling F-Series — delivers new technology inside an already-loved vehicle.

Also, while the Dearborn automaker takes pride in pivoting to all-electric, the gasoline-powered F-Series remains a multibillion-dollar franchise.

2021 Ford Mustang Mach-E GT prices start at $59,900

At the energy conference, Farley had explained how Ford set itself up for EV success and why demand was so overwhelming now.

"We were lucky. We got to watch from a distance what happened at Tesla and the first generation of leaders like BMW and GM. They went first, and Nissan, and Tesla won and the generic products didn’t," Farley said. 

"What we learned from that as a management team, which was actually not popular in the company, was that early adopters of zero emission wanted the good stuff," he said. "They don’t want generic homogeneous small cars that are unremarkable. They want great vehicles. They want aspirational vehicles ... And so we said, 'let’s electrify the icons.' "

This is the reason Ford built the Mustang Mach-E and Mach-E GT, as well as the upcoming F-150 Lightning, which is scheduled to begin delivery soon.

The automaker has been so overwhelmed by orders for its award-winning Mach-E that it has had to stop taking orders for the 2022 model because many are sold out.

Not all versions, but many.

Alysha Johnson, 31, of Roseville, is seen here charging her Mustang Mach-E on Sept. 19, 2021 in Roseville. She uses the SUV to grocery shop, take her 4-year-old son Collin to sports events and travel to Ohio.

Customers cannot order the Mach-E Premium or Mach-E California Route 1 right now. However, they can still order the least expensive base model Mach-E Select and the more expensive Mach-E GT and Mach-E Performance Edition, confirmed Ford spokesperson Said Deep.

If a consumer wants one of these remaining few 2022 models, that window will close in coming weeks and they should be ordered immediately, he said.

Those new orders would take an estimated five months to be delivered, Deep said. 

When the 2023 Mach-E order bank opens, deliveries are scheduled to begin as soon as late 2022. While Ford expects 2022 Mach-Es to be delivered to customers before the new model year begins shipping, global supply chain and semiconductor chip issues could continue to disrupt the delivery schedules, Deep said.

"We’ll have timing on when the order bank reopens on all 2023 models very soon," Deep told the Free Press.

Analysts have said that Ford and other automakers can present hopeful forecasts but too many global problems are at play to be certain. Everyone seems to be doing their best to manage customer expectations.

"We’re keeping retail ordering open for other popular models like GT, GT Performance Edition and Select. Customers may work with their dealers to buy a Mach-E from stock. With unprecedented demand for these models, we are building existing customer orders for Premium and California Route 1 models," Deep said.

More:Ford's performance Mustang Mach-E GT proves electricity can fuel a muscle car

More:Mustang Mach-E just beat out 10 competitors: 'This award is a massive deal'

More:New York City just spent $11.5M on 184 Mustang Mach-E GT SUVs

The price of the Mach-E base model has increased $1,000 from the 2021 model year to the 2022 model year, from $42,895 to $43,895, Ford confirmed.

The Mach-E Premium starts at $49,100 and California Route 1 starts at $52,775, Ford confirmed. The company said the most popular version is the Premium, while the California Route 1 offers the best range at 314 miles.

The Ford Mustang Mach-E electric SUV. Ford closed the order bank on the Mach-E because the automaker was unable to meet demand. Now it's the subject of a federal lawsuit, recalls.

For Lightning, Ford capped reservations at 200,000 and customers are in the process of converting $100 reservations to official orders. The base price starts around $40,000.

The company began converting Lightning reservations to orders in January, with delivery of the pickups scheduled for mid-2022. Because of the huge response, Ford said it would begin working down its reservation list and inviting people via email to see whether they want to convert to an order; if so, the process will begin. If people decline, the next name on the list gets invited to purchase. A reservation allows a customer to be invited to place an order as production becomes available.

Inspectors Kelly Jones, left, and Rhonda Cenance look over a 2022 Ford F-150 Lightning inside the  Rouge Electric Vehicle Center in Dearborn, Mich., on Sept. 16, 2021.

The number of customers invited varies by wave and there is no set number of waves in the invitation process, Ford said. The number of waves will be adjusted throughout the process based on available commodities and customer order rates.

More:Private moments with Ford CEO Jim Farley reveal how he works

More:Ford CEO gives employees sobering data about Tesla, challenges ahead

More:Ford CEO Jim Farley gave us big clue automaker's stock was going to surge

Invitations will begin for the 2022 Lightning model year until it's fulfilled and then continue into 2023 and so on. Ford saw nearly 70% of the reservation holders for the Ford Bronco convert to buyers, Deep told the Free Press.

This conversion is a possible indicator of what to expect with Lightning.

"We have unprecedented demand for our electric vehicles and our teams are working to break constraints so we can build more vehicles for our customers," Deep said.

"This year, we will start to increase production on Mustang Mach-E and we expect to reach 200,000-plus units annually by next year," he said.

In January, Ford announced it would nearly double production capacity to 150,000 Lightning pickups per year at the Rouge Electric Vehicle Center in Dearborn to meet "soaring customer demand," Deep said. "Customer deliveries of the new electric truck begin this spring. Within 24 months, Ford will have the global capacity to produce 600,000 battery electric vehicles annually with plans to move toward annual production of more than 2 million EVs by 2026."

Customers have until March 31 to convert current Lightning reservations to an order and all pickups being built are made-to-order. No new reservations are being accepted for the 2022 model year but the 2023 model year orders open again this summer. The key is getting on a list with a dealer because some buyers may back out, Deep said.

Coal for Christmas 

Janie Begeman, a retired nurse from the Grand Rapids bedroom community of Ada, has been wondering about the arrival of her family's Rapid Red Metallic 2022 Mach-E Premium since placing an order in July.

"I’m not trying to get anybody in trouble," she said. "We went in around the first of July, last summer, and put our order in. They told us it would take about six months, to expect it around Christmastime."

So the family ordered a charging station kit from the dealer, called an electrician to get it installed, and waited. And waited. 

Philip Begeman, a commercial underwriter, is fine driving his 20-year-old Honda Accord. He's used to driving cars until they die. 

"They told us, 'We kind of oversold. We're not going to be able to fulfill the 2021 order. Then we got pushed to 2022 with a $750 rebate for time and trouble. Then we finally got confirmation our order was accepted," Janie Begeman said. "Then an email came saying it would be February. Then, in February, it was pushed to March. And now we just got an email that it won't come until June."

She added, "It just seems to me like it keeps fading into the mist. Will we ever see this car?" 

Janie and Philip Begeman, seen here at the Fox Hills Golf and Banquet Center in Plymouth during a family wedding celebration October 12, 2018, have been waiting since July 2021 for their Mustang Mach-E.

Janie Begeman comes from a loyal Ford family; her father retired as a maintenance supervisor who worked mostly in the paint department at the Wixom plant, her one brother retired from the Ford production line and the other retired after repairing factory robots. 

Another member of her family is waiting for a Mach-E, too. Janie Begeman appreciates updates but the corporate emails constantly pushing out the dates are exhausting. She said it sounds like her vehicle may be stuck in Kansas City now, after being shipped from the plant in Mexico. She can't figure out why. And her dealer doesn't know either, she said.

More:Ford makes come-from-behind push with Mach-E as industry enters new era

More:Ford team had to plead with Bill Ford to give back not-yet-released Mustang

More:Ford partners with Tesla co-founder on battery recycling, better supply chain

Meanwhile, Ford told the Free Press that customer emails reflect real time updates as the company gets them, and delays are frustrating everybody but simply can't be avoided with the constant disruption of car parts.

Long lead time

Todd Szott, dealer partner at Szott Ford in Holly, confirmed some older Mach-E orders have been delayed longer than expected because of the semiconductor chip delays.

"Our current customers with Mach-E orders will get them within a six- to eight-month window," he told the Free Press this week. "We have five orders in the system. Some people are choosing not to order because of the long lead time. Some of the 2022 configurations are sold out."

He, too, noted the current sold-out status of California Route 1 and Premium.

Short supply is a reality

But everything depends on supply chain management and how quickly the companies can ramp up production. What is considered sold out today may not actually be sold out tomorrow.

It all just requires patience and fortitude, analysts said.

"This is not a problem only at Ford. Some executives are going to tell you the truth that almost all vehicles are hard to find while many people are trying to hide that fact. Nearly all popular models are in short supply," said Sam Fiorani, vice president of global vehicle forecasting at AutoForecast Solutions. "The vehicle shortage is across the industry. It just so happens that one of their most sought after models is the electric model they offer. A similar situation will arise when the Lightning becomes available in a few months."

Ford CEO Jim Farley talks about Ford is transforming its global automotive business with the formation of two auto divisions, Ford Blue and Ford Model e, that work together to execute the Ford+ plan. He is seen here during a webcast on Wednesday, March 2, 2022, in Dearborn.

Van Conway, president of the Young Conway Group, a turnaround consultancy for businesses based in Detroit, said executives routinely get consumers excited when products are so popular they're in limited supply.

"Ferrari sells out every year, too," Conway told the Free Press. "When you say you’re sold out, you actually get people more interested in getting one. Maybe they're not sold out tomorrow, but they are sold out today." 

More:Ford doubles annual bonuses amid worker fury over controversial formula

More:Lawsuit: Unsealed emails suggest Ford targeted high-performing older workers

More:Ford settles lawsuit alleging automaker targeted high-performing older workers

Contact Phoebe Wall her on Twitter@phoebesaid. Read more on Ford and sign up for our autos newsletter.