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The American love affair with pickup trucks has been hot and heavy this past decade. Sales have skyrocketed 123% during the last ten years making it one of the most profitable market sectors in US automotive sales.
Edmunds estimates that 20% of all vehicle sales this year have been pickup trucks, and they are outselling sedans for the first time ever.
In 2019 alone, there were over 3 million pickup trucks sold in the US, with the Ford F-Series leading the pack. That translates to a whopping $58 billion dollars in estimated sales for the market sector in 2020.
The top three companies for pickup truck sales in 2019 was Ford (NYSE: F) with revenue of US$22.1 billion, followed by Chevrolet (NYSE: GM), with US$ 17.8 billion, and Ram (NYSE: STLA) with US$15.5 billion.
Surprisingly, as enormous as the North American truck market is, the automotive industry still has not produced a single electric truck for mass sale!
The electric vehicle (EV) revolution is afoot, and we have seen amazing progress in EV viability. This includes an increasing capture of auto sales to EVs, much to the surprise of the Detroit automakers who have not been active in the space — until now.
The automotive industry is in a historic, seismic shift to electrification; a major automotive transformation not seen since the turn of the 20th century when Ford Motor Company (NYSE: F) began mass production of the iconic Model T.
The push to electrification has been driven by an increased awareness of climate change and the devastating changes in weather the planet is already experiencing. Governments around the world are now putting pressure on the auto industry to cut greenhouse gas emissions with phase outs of internal combustion engines to take effect as early as 2030.
The Biden administration has already signaled a push for carbon reducing initiatives, which includes the continued tightening of fuel economy standards for internal combustion vehicles and adding tax incentives for EVs. 
Tesla, Inc. (NASDAQ: TSLA) has been a driving force in the EV revolution, pouring millions into R&D to increase efficiency in battery technology and production as well as working on adding the latest technology to the driving experience such as driver assist.
Tesla has seen incredible acceptance by the public as sales have soared to heights not imagined a mere two years ago. Tesla shipped just under a half a million vehicles in 2020 alone.
Tesla’s market capitalization rallied above $834 billion, which now makes the company worth more than the five top-selling global vehicle manufacturers combined. This also made Tesla's Founder and CEO Elon Musk the richest man in the world.
To seal the deal, Tesla was recently added to the benchmark S&P 500 index, cementing its place as an automotive heavy weight.
Electric vehicles have now become a viable option as the next family car with such features as longer battery life, increased range with more miles per charge, more power and torque, sleek modern designs, the latest tech gadgets such as auto pilot and the now ubiquitous touch screen, and a price point that is quickly becoming extremely competitive with comparable high-end gasoline powered vehicles.
With these advances, the EV market as a standalone started to take root in 2020 and is becoming a formidable threat within the entire gas-powered automotive industry.
The proverbial writing is on the wall. Traditional gasoline and diesel vehicles are going the way of the dinosaur, and electric vehicles are rising to take their place.
While the electric sedan has seen sales take off, electric trucks are nowhere to be found. The holy grail of automotive sales is still up for grabs and the coming year will tell who is going to claim the crown jewel of the EV market: electric pickups.
The big US automakers as well as a handful of start-ups are working feverishly to get their trucks ready for delivery by late 2021 or early 2022.
Who will be the first to market with a mass produced EV pickup?
Who will dominate the electric pickup truck market and claim the holy grail?
We have already seen prototypes of what these vehicles will look like, with many of the companies already taking pre-orders. Tesla is touting they have already received 650,000 pre-orders for their ground-breaking and sci-fi looking Cybertruck!
Not to be left behind, the big Detroit automakers are hammering out partnerships with startup EV companies and pouring billions of dollars of investment money into building new factories and retooling existing manufacturing facilities.
Startup Nikola Corporation (NASDAQ: NKLA) was in talks with General Motors Company (NYSE: GM) to invest $2 billion but the deal has been put on ice with recent allegations of corporate fraud and the recent resignation of Nikola’s CEO.
Electric vehicle start-up Rivian (Private) has raised about $6 billion in funding so far and they have not even sold one truck! Big backers in Rivian include Amazon.com (NASDAQ: AMZN) with a $700 million investment and a pre-order commitment of 100k vehicles, Ford Motor Company (NYSE: F) jumping in with $500 million and BlackRock putting in $118 million.,,,
Electric vehicle adoption has been up against a myriad of barriers that have inhibited automakers from jumping into the space and consumers from taking the plunge into EVs:
Service centers: Being the first on the block with your shiny new EV might be cool, but when something breaks on the vehicle and you are miles away from the city, where do you go for service? Not every roadside mechanic is going to know where to even start with EV diagnostics and repairs.
Charging centers: Going on a cross-country trip in your EV is still a challenge. Charging stations can be hard to find but that is beginning to change.
Tesla has now constructed over 2,000 charging stations in urban areas across the country. To add to that, the Biden administration is calling for construction of another 50k charging stations in the next few years. The distance between chargers will be greatly reduced over time, as EV adoption continues to grow.
Convenience factor: Let’s face it, who wants to wait a couple of hours while your vehicle charges? Current EV charging times have come down considerably from the early models, but the technology has a long way to go to achieve quick recharging times.
Battery technology and range: A bright point for EVs are the advances in battery technology and increases in range of some vehicles to over 500 miles per charge. Battery tech has now been pushed to unimagined capacities with lithium power cells.
Recently, QuantumScape Corporation (NYSE: QS) announced that they have all the pieces in place to start solid state battery production. Solid state batteries are a game changer for the EV industry, with promises of twice the capacity in the same amount of space and charging times of minutes rather than hours.
Gas prices are still low: Consumers are still not feeling the pinch of fuel costs. Government subsidies for oil and gas have artificially driven prices down, weighing on EV adoption. Biden has called for an end to the archaic fossil fuel subsidy and is already hitting huge resistance from the 800-pound gorilla oil industry. We will see this battle play out in the coming year as the last gasps of the fossil fuel industry could come to an end.
EV vehicles are higher priced: As with any new technology, prices start out high until manufacturers retool and increases in competition come onboard. The same is true for EVs. This is quickly changing, and consumers are already seeing electric vehicles with a price point that is becoming competitive to internal combustion vehicles.
Customer appetite: Probably the biggest hurdle the EV industry has to overcome is acceptance by the end consumer. EVs still have not been accepted by the masses, although this is changing rapidly.
In fact, the topic has become a political lightning rod as Trump signaled to his followers that low-emission vehicles are somehow bad for America. He went so far as to try and remove auto pollution rules on internal combustion engines as well as remove tax credits for EVs.
The best-selling vehicles in the US are still large petroleum-burning pickup trucks. Americans have been putting gas in their cars for almost a hundred years. Moving from gasoline to electric is not a natural process for many US consumers.
There is a large segment of America that is fighting against change, particularly environmental and climate related initiatives, even though those changes will help make their world a better place to live.
There is no doubt EVs will become the norm over the next number of years. The outside pressures on internal combustion vehicles are too great to sustain their continued dominance in the market.
These are exciting times for truck owners. The specs on these trucks blow traditional gas-powered trucks out of the water. Electric pickup trucks are beasts in all categories. Add to that the luxury additions and mind-blowing tech in the cabin and you have a recipe for lines around the block on the opening day of sales.
There are currently six electric pickup trucks on the horizon for the US market. Most of the manufacturers are promising delivery by 4th quarter of 2021, with some coming by 2nd quarter of 2022.
Without further ado, let’s take a look at the competitors in the electric pickup truck war.
From the Established Automakers
Ford Motor Company (NYSE: F)
Ford's Electric F-150
At over 750,000 trucks sold last year, the Ford F-150 is hands down the king of the gas-powered pickup truck market. The company's F-150 line-up has huge brand recognition, and customers are fiercely loyal and trust the Ford brand.
That alone could tip the EV pickup war in their favor, as Ford promises competitive pricing for their EV variant when compared to others.
Ford does have a working prototype, which they used to pull a loaded freight train car. That equates to about 1.25 million pounds of torque. Although official specs for the electric pickup have yet to be delivered, the company has touted the new truck will be the fastest F-150 ever built with dual electric motors and can be used as a power source at the construction site, if needed.
The design is not a far leap from the traditional F-150 that customers already know and love.
The company is promising delivery by mid-2022.
This is a major player in the space and Ford could use its brand to win the hearts and minds of consumers reluctant to move to EVs.
Tesla, Inc. (NASDAQ: TSLA)
In one of the most high-profile events this past year in the EV world, Tesla unveiled its prototype electric pickup, known as the Cybertruck, to much controversy. While the design is a far departure from traditional pickup truck designs, interest has warmed with the company now touting over 600k pre-orders.
The specs are rock solid as you would expect from Tesla: 0-60 in 2.9 seconds, tow rated to 14,000+ lbs., and a travel range of over 500 miles if you opt for the $69,900 tri-motor version. The base model has 250+ miles of range, 7500+ lbs. of towing, and an estimated starting price of $39,900, according to Elon Musk.
Customers will have access to the Tesla supercharger network around the country and its auto pilot software.
Delivery is estimated for the 4th quarter of 2021.
Tesla’s marketing is smart. They took their foremost competitor, the gas-powered F-150, to task in a literal tug of war. The Cybertruck dragged the Ford F-150 around like a toy.
General Motors Company (NYSE: GM)
GMC's Hummer EV
This is the truck that gets my attention. Take the iconic Hummer brand and add to it 1,000 hp that will rocket the hummer from 0 to 60 in under 3 seconds, good looks, a long list of unique, innovative features and technologies, and you have a recipe for success, in my opinion.
The electric Hummer will have four-wheel steering, 10-minute charging for 100 miles of juice, 18 cameras, and semi-autonomous driving technology. The starting price will come in at just under $80k.
Delivery is said to be late 2021.
The New Kids on the Block: The Start-ups
As a rule, customers are loyal to their brands and segments. It could be an uphill battle to get customers to cross brand lines and take a chance with any of these newcomers in the electric truck category.
But these newcomer brands have innovative designs and could become a pack leader given the right marketing, leading to customer adoption.
Bollinger Motors (Private)
The Bollinger electric pickup is in a word, utilitarian. The design is bare bones military. Specs are average in the category with tow loads of 7500 lbs., 0-60 time at 4.5 seconds and the lowest range per charge with only 200 miles.
The price is a deal breaker in my opinion at $125k.
The company has been quiet on their electric truck since its unveiling in September 2019. Production is set for mid-2021.
Lordstown Motors Corp. (NASDAQ: RIDE)
Lordstown Motors' Endurance
Lordstown presented a working model of its electric truck in June 2020, and the company is confident it can win over customers with its competitive price point of $52k, tow rating of 7500 lbs. and 600 hp.
The company’s strategy is to be first to market, with initial sales to begin in early 2021.
The fact that they are working out of a former GM plant is a bonus to their credibility. Time will tell if they can deliver on their promises.
Rivian is one of the more established start-ups. It has had over $6 billion of investment money poured into the company by the likes of Ford and Amazon.
They have a pre-order commitment from Amazon for 100k electric delivery vans which definitely helps to buoy the company financially.
Their electric pickup sports some impressive numbers and will be available in three power sizes. The mid-range truck will hit 0-60 in 3 seconds, tow up to 11,000 lbs., and include semi-autonomous driving software. One cool feature is the truck can turn in place with a motor at each wheel. The final price is reasonable at $69k.
Deliveries have been postponed due the coronavirus pandemic but are set for June 2021.
Further research: I highly recommend taking 18 minutes of your day and watching this video on electric pickup trucks and how the space is evolving. It is well worth your time.
It is the ultimate race to bring an electric pickup truck to market. The automotive industry is working to build the first commercial EV pickup without knowing if public demand will eventually meet supply.
This is the perfect time for investors to do their research and find the best EV companies to add to their core portfolio.
Investors take note: Big things are coming! The switch to electric vehicles is inevitable and the EV pickup truck market totals over $58 billion. 2021 will usher in an impressive lineup of EV pickups, and we will quickly find out the appetite for electric trucks by consumers.
My guess is they will be a home run. The power specs the automakers are publishing on these EV pickups are outrageous, and I believe that consumers will be running to their nearest dealership to make a purchase.
Early investments in the EV pickup truck market could lead to some handsome gains over the next year and beyond. Do your due diligence and find the EV truck company that you feel will be the best bet to take the holy grail and become king of the EV truck market. The EV truck market is just getting started!
MF Williams, Contributor
for Investors News Service
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