It’s Evolution Over Revolution for the All-New 2021 Ford F-150

The most important new vehicle of the year debuts this week. Here’s what to expect.

byPatrick George|
Ford News photo

Good Monday morning and welcome back to Speed Lines, The Drive's roundup of what matters in the world of cars and transportation. Today we're discussing the online car sales boom, what to expect from the debut of the all-new 2021 Ford F-150 this week, and the new date for Tesla's important Battery Day event. 

What To Expect From The New Ford F-150

Though plans have been waylaid by the pandemic, several important new cars are set to come out in 2020. But none of them are as important as the new 2021 Ford F-150. Sure, the new Bronco and Bronco Sport should be fun, and crucial additions to Ford's crossover lineup, but the F-150 is America's best-selling vehicle—and the thing that keeps the lights on in Dearborn. It's the most crucial vehicle Ford makes, and we'll see it on Thursday. 

Ford can't afford to screw this one up. Not after the debacle that was last year's Explorer launch, which was beset with delays and quality problems. Someone's head is going to be on a pike if there's anything close to problems like that again, especially when you consider that as strong a seller as the F-150 is, it's been losing ground to Ram and Chevrolet in recent years and this new one set to debut in a year when truck sales are basically propping up the American automakers. 

So what can we expect from this all-important new F-150, this miracle machine that may or may not save CEO Jim Hackett's job? For starters, it's not going to be as revolutionary as its predecessor, which controversially switched to an aluminum body. No, instead, the focus will be on the interior and technology, reports Automotive News

By now you've probably seen the big touch screens or read about the flat-folding seats you can sleep in. There's also the next-generation Sync system that now allows for over-the-air software updates, a hybrid system that can serve as a mobile generator, and maybe a few unexpected surprises. A fully electric version of the truck is also set to bow at some point, but I don't think we'll see that variant on Thursday. 

Tune in to The Drive this week for more info as it's released, or as is more likely with Ford, as it leaks out. 

The Online Car Buying Revolution Is Here To Stay

It took a global pandemic to drag America's car dealerships kicking and screaming onto the internet. But in recent months, despite excruciatingly slow sales amid the economic downturn, a robust online presence has been the saving grace for many dealers. Home delivery, online financing, virtual tours and an emphasis on completing the process on the internet have all equated to a big shift for dealers. Until recently, research was the primary thing done online; now more of the process can be completed that way too.

The Wall Street Journal reports that those changes are here to stay, especially as we come to understand we'll be dealing with COVID-19 for a long time. One Chevrolet dealership interviewed even saw sales up 20 percent year over year in May, despite the downturn, because of the speed with which cars can be bought online now. 

But there's a chance that long-term, this will mean fewer dealership jobs:

After some sales success, many in the industry expect the online push to continue. As dealerships reopen across the country, many are rethinking how they staff locations, including cutting traditional sales roles and shifting more employees into digital operations, managers and owners say.

[...] AutoNation, which laid off 7,000 workers this spring as the outbreak spread, anticipates it will need fewer sales staff going forward. While it plans to bring back some workers, many showroom positions will go unfilled as it redirects more employees to online retailing, a company spokesman said.

Further proof that many jobs are sadly not coming back when the pandemic is "over."

Battery Day Delayed

Finally, speaking of important debuts this year, Tesla has punted its July 7 Battery Day event to September 15, tentatively. It was postponed along with Tesla's shareholder meeting due to coronavirus concerns; CEO Elon Musk made the announcement on Twitter.

This event is said to be a big deal, and "one of the most of exciting days in Tesla's history", as Musk put it recently. It was where Tesla was expected to unveil the so-called "million-mile batteries" it's been working on, a new kind of low-cost, low-cobalt, long-lasting EV battery that could achieve cost parity with internal combustion vehicles. If true, it's going to be a game-changer for Tesla and the EV sector as a whole.

We'll have to wait a bit longer to see what's up Musk's sleeve. Hopefully, it won't go the way battery swapping did.

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