(CBS) The coronavirus is changing how carmakers launch new vehicles, including the latest model of the best-selling vehicle in America. The pandemic forced a digital debut for the 2021 Ford F-150 pickup.
“Well, I would say that it’s an unusual way of life for everybody right now, so you just have to adjust,” says Todd Eckert, the truck group marketing manager for Ford. “This is the first time that we’ve done something like this from a virtually-only basis.”
Arriving in dealerships this fall, the F-150 gets a new body. In a first for large pickups, an available hybrid version Ford hopes will give drivers 700 miles on a tank of gas. It also has an optional built-in generator that could power up to 28 refrigerators. There’s new technology like a trailer reverse guidance system and the ability to receive over-the-air system updates. Inside, there’s a focus on comfort and more storage. There is a larger center display and the center console can turn into a desk. Straight out of first class on an airliner, there are lay-flat sleeper front seats.
Toyota is among the other carmakers unveiling new vehicles virtually. “There’s absolutely no playbook right now for launching a vehicle, everyone is trying to figure out what works,” says CNET’s Tim Stevens. He says companies are trying to attract customers after weeks of sagging sales during the pandemic. “With the truck segment as competitive as it is right now, the new Ram is incredibly good, the new Silverado is incredibly good, all the trucks right now are really incredibly good. Ford’s gotta absolutely nail this launch,” Stevens says.
It’s a launch that’s key to Ford’s future after the company borrowed more than $20 billion to weather the economic fallout of the coronavirus.