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The cab to a Ford all-electric F-150 Lightning truck prototype at the Rouge Electric Vehicle Center, in Dearborn, Mich., on Sept. 16, 2021.REBECCA COOK/Reuters

Ford Motor Co. F-N on Tuesday started regular manufacturing of its F-150 Lightning electric pickup truck, more than tripling planned annual production of the vehicle that now symbolizes the 119-year-old company’s drive to retool for a new century.

A webcast of the “Job One” ceremony marked the sharp acceleration of the Lightning’s assembly system at Ford’s Rouge Electric Vehicle Center in Dearborn, Mich.

“We’re the first company to build electric trucks for everybody, way ahead of anyone else,” said executive chair Bill Ford, whose great grandfather Henry Ford built the original Rouge factory here.

Ford aims to build 150,000 Lightning trucks a year at the new part of its historic Rouge manufacturing complex while it builds a much larger electric vehicle production complex in Tennessee that will open in 2025.

It had planned to build just 40,000 Lightning trucks annually, but surging demand for electric vehicles prompted Ford to increase planned production twice since last August of the heavily modified version of its best-selling F-150 pickup truck.

About 200,000 customers made reservations for the Lightning before Ford cut off taking preliminary orders in December.

The Lightning will hit showrooms behind startup Rivian’s RIVN-Q electric R1T pickup, but ahead of General Motors Co.’s GM-N electric Silverado, Stellantis STLA-N NV’s promised electric Ram truck and Tesla Inc.’s TSLA-Q Cybertruck, which has been delayed until next year at the earliest.

Rivals GM and Ford are pursuing different strategies in the electric pickup market. Ford re-engineered its current F-150 to install batteries, a cargo-carrying front trunk and enough electrical outlets to power a home or a construction site. It took 19 months to build an assembly line adjacent to the existing Rouge F-series factory.

GM spent more time designing its electric Silverado from the wheels up, gutted a factory in Detroit to build it and several other electric vehicles, and built new factories to supply those vehicles with GM-designed batteries.

Chevrolet will launch a version of the electric Silverado for commercial and work customers in the spring of 2023 followed by consumer models in the fall.

For Ford, it was critical to hit its target of starting regular production of the F-150 Lightning this spring, a year ahead of the Silverado EV. Ford has contended in the past with late, poorly executed launches, including the botched introduction of a redesigned Explorer sport utility vehicle in 2019.

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