The all-electric F-150 “Lightning” weighs 3 tons and does 0 to 60 in 4 seconds. If you’re Ford CEO Jim Farley, you know that because you have access to a test track, where you can catch air and hit 99mph in the home stretch just for fun. Like other industry leaders, Farley is hustling to crack open the electric-vehicle market. It’s not a trend; it’s the way of the future, and it “will have far-reaching effects on the environment, climate change, public policy, and the economy,” writes New York Times auto-reporter Neal E. Boudette. To achieve “the greatest transformation since Henry Ford revolutionized manufacturing,” automakers must first invest tens of billions and reinvent the way they build cars. However, Elon Musk may already be the Henry Ford of this century.
“The traditional auto industry is pretty far behind Tesla,” says Earl J. Hesterberg, CEO of the influential Group 1 Automotive. Ford has some potential advantages: the Lightning starts at $40,000, thousands less than the cheapest Tesla; plus, the F-Series is already America’s best-selling line of pickups. Under Farley’s leadership, Ford has made some risky bets in its design and engineering approaches, and—so far—the future looks bright, with 200,000 preorders as production begins. But the story points out the truck still could "stumble," given shortages of computer chips and batteries, or if software glitches emerge. Farley has a family history in the auto industry (and in comedy, as cousin of the late Chris Farley), but he’s had a varied career, including an early stint at IBM, which can’t hurt, as electric vehicles are forcing automakers to become software developers. (Read the full profile.)