Ford has pulled the plug on the next-generation F-150 Lightning SVT pickup truck, instead putting all SVT's eggs into one basket - the SVT Cobra Mustang, due for 2006.
"It's a business decision," said Alan Hall, SVT spokesman. The official line is that the Lightning has been "postponed," and not killed, but if it is revived, it will be 2008 or later before we see one. SVT has gone from three vehicles in 2004 - the Lightning, the Cobra Mustang and the SVT Focus - to none in 2005.
Ford had already shown a concept version of the next-generation Lightning in 2003. The concept had a supercharged V-8 engine with more than 500 horsepower, in answer to the Dodge Ram SRT-10, which eclipsed the Lightning as the world's fastest production pickup in a test last winter. Ford was eager to regain the crown, but has decided to deed the performance pickup-truck market over to Dodge and its 500-horse SRT-10, and to a lesser extent, Chevrolet, though the heavy all-wheel-drive Silverado SS is not in the same category.
The Lightning debuted in 1993, with a 240-horsepower version of Ford's 5.8-liter V-8. Cobby and not that attractive, it was only a mild success, and was dropped in 1995. The F-150's re-design led to a handsome new Lightning for 1999, featuring a 360-horsepower supercharged 5.4-liter V-8. A handful of 2004 Lightnings, not much changed from that 1999 model except for a horsepower bump to 380, remain on dealer lots. Base price: $33,560.
Apparently, cost played a leading role in the decision, as the expense involved in developing and certifying a proper V8, and massaging the new-for-2004 F-150's chassis, was deemed prohibitive. Also, the next-generation Lightning's fuel mileage would likely continue to detract from Ford's Corporate Average Fuel Economy totals: The current Lightning is rated at 12 mpg city, 16 mpg highway.
Even so, this news will not be popular with Lightning loyalists, such as Mike Philpot of Heathrow, Florida, who paid full sticker price for his Lightning in July, 1999. "My '99 Lightning has been a fantastic vehicle," he says. "It has about 54,000 miles on it, and it runs better than new. Never any problems. I bought an extended warranty from Ford, but I could have saved myself the money. It has it all: good looks, comfort, good handling and, of course, all that incredible power. Hardly a day goes by without at least one positive comment on it from someone.
"Hopefully, Ford will change its mind. If they want to keep the F-150 the most popular truck in the world with all the competition that it has now, they had better continue with their halo vehicle."