BRISTOL, Tenn. (WJHL) — People wanting new all-electric vehicles are used to the “hurry up and wait” game, but now folks interested in the electric version of America’s best-selling pickup will at least be able to see, touch and test drive a model.

Friendship Ford took shipment of a “Pro” version of the F-150 Lightning on Friday — the no-frills commercial version of a model that rolled its first units off the production line less than two months ago.

“It’s a game changer,” Friendship General Manager Lance Dowdy said of the truck, which starts at just under $40,000 before a tax credit that lowers the effective price by $7,500.

Friendship Ford General Manager Lance Dowdy with the all-electric F-150 Lightning the dealership now has available for test driving and inspection. (WJHL Photo)

“You just don’t realize how much torque and how (the) ride is just so smooth…is it going to be for everybody, no, but I think there’s a lot of people that are going to be extremely satisfied with this product.”

If the Lightning was going to be for everybody, most everybody would have an awfully long wait. Ford sold almost a million F-150s in 2019. The company is making 40,000 Lightnings this year and hopes to produce 150,000 in 2023.

The truck, which gets 230 miles per charge or up to 300-plus with the extended range battery, had already received 200,000 orders last December when Ford closed the “order bank” on the 2022s.

“They can test drive the vehicle…see the equipment, kind of get what you like to do and then when the 2023’s open up, there’ll be a little lead time,” Dowdy said.

“You can go in there and build your truck, get in with us. Day one of allocation we want to get in as many orders as we can just like everybody else is going to do, and the more that you can get those orders in the higher likelihood you’re going to get what you want.”

Dowdy said he expects the Lightning to draw a lot of attention. After showing off a “frunk” that can hold up to 400 pounds of gear where an engine normally sits under the hood, Dowdy climbed in and started the test model up. Silence.

He backed what is the fastest F-150 ever (0 to 60 in less than five seconds) off the curb and the truck glided silently toward Highway 11-W. Then it took off like a rocket, tires barking, when Dowdy punched the accelerator.

Prospective buyers will be able to get that same instant torque that’s exclusive to electric vehicles, as well as the superb handling that comes from a massively heavy battery directly under the vehicle’s center. That leaves the center of gravity in an optimum place for handling.

“People can come by and get their interest up, see the good, the bad,” Dowdy said. “Is it going to be a fit for everybody? Is it going to replace gas and diesel engines? No, that’s not what Ford has said.”

But about 30 of the 2022 trucks were ordered through Friendship and will arrive later this year.

“We’ll have one in not too long that’ll actually go to a customer, it’s a local businessman here in the area,” Dowdy said.

Changing dynamics in the dealership and car buying world

The Lightning Pro has the same motor and driving features as the more expensive trim levels, so Dowdy said folks interested in something fancier will basically get the same driving experience they would with an XLT or Lariat trim model.

And the way the world of vehicle sales is changing, if someone wants to drive a Lightning this is the only choice they’re going to have. Supply chain issues and other changes have made the shopping and buying experience completely different than it used to be.

“The supply chain for chips was not going to be a quick fix,” Dowdy said. “I mean Ford is saying 2024, probably more realistic 2025.”

He said Ford learned a hard lesson when it reintroduced the Bronco SUV.

“They had a lot of different packages and that’s been the hardest part for us, because we’ve had customers that have had the cars on order but you’re having to call them back and say, ‘well, if you’ll give up having a certain feature you’ll get it sooner.'”

Most buyers are agreeing to that. Dowdy said people ought to get used to dealerships with far fewer models on the lot.

That’s one reason he’s not concerned about a no-frills work truck attracting buyers interested in fancier models. Another reason is that Friendship has a focus on commercial sales and is Northeast Tennessee’s only designated Ford commercial vehicle center.

Dowdy expects keen interest from people looking to switch some of their fleet vehicles to electric. He also said Friendship’s designation may have played a part in the dealership getting the Lightning demo truck so early.

“This car changes the game for a lot of businesses, because when their vehicles go down it’s a per day kind of deal,” Dowdy said.

“It’s a work truck. It can be everything from your plumber, your general contractor…it’s got capacity to tow up to 10,000 pounds because we got the max tow on here.”

And that 400-pound capacity frunk has several standard electrical outlets that can be powered by the battery.

“With the tax credit, you’re looking at about $38,000 to have this much equipment,” Dowdy said of the model that’s on the lot.

Want something fancier and you’ll pay far more, with the Lightning’s XLT trim starting at about $55,000 and Lariat and Platinum trim levels rising well above that. Dowdy doesn’t expect the sticker prices to dampen sales.

“I think skeptics of electric vehicles will be extremely surprised when they drive this truck and learn what it has to offer.”