Ford F-150 Lightning: the precarious life of the Green Deal and America’s first steps into the war economy

29 May, 2021

Ford F-150 Lightning, the vehicle of a new green era of precarization and war economy.
Ford F-150 Lightning, the vehicle of a new green era of precarization and war economy.

There exist advertisements which condense an era with far greater economy than any novel or film. The ad for Ford’s F-150 Lightning, Ford’s iconic vehicle for the Biden’s Green Deal is, by the same token, a promotional ad for precarious living rather than a celebration of green comfort, a Nomadland to insert into big-league matches and Superbowls rather than a sales pitch. But Biden has gone a step further: the Green Deal’s pick-up is also the symbol of a looming new war economy.

Table of Contents

A constant backdrop of woe

Ford F-150 Lightning batteries can power an entire house for up to 3 days. In case the grid goes down or you get cut off for non-payment.
The Ford F-150 Lightning’s batteries can power an entire home for up to 3 days. Just in case the grid goes down or your power is cut off for non-payment.

The Ford F-150 Lightning could only begin its story in the middle of a stormy night and to the sound of a Rock&Roll bass, the beat of urban angst about to step on the gas. The promise: a more connected, more dynamic and more unexpected experience than ever before. Welcome to the world of the Green Deal. We won’t have no T-bone steaks, but we will live unexpected experiences… by the bucketload.

First trademark of the product: (electric) horsepower for a lifestyle making us feel permanently helpless. When you get home and you have the car charging, the power goes out? It doesn’t matter if the grid went down or you were cut off for non-payment: the Ford F-150 Lightning batteries can power your household consumption for up to three days at a time.

And even if the power isn’t cut off but you don’t want to cook dinner at Michelin-star prices, as will happen from June [in Spain -TN], you can draw your car’s unused power and let it replenish itself overnight when it’s cheapest. Mind you, you will need a whole extra Ford system setup at home to be able to do this.

Nomadland meets the Green Deal

The Ford F-150 Lightning is not only able to pull a camper but offers a front storage trunk claiming to be "the most revolutionary thing since the truck bed."
The Ford F-150 Lightning is not only able to pull a camper but offers a front storage trunk claiming to be “the most revolutionary thing since the pickup bed.”

And should things get even worse, and you become homeless, the creators of the Ford F-150 Lightning want you to be confident that the transition to articulated vehicle driver (the roulotte) will be easy thanks to their special software for calculating trajectories, inertias, and RV speeds. Plus you’ll be able to keep a good part of your belongings when you transition to precariousness on wheels, not like those poor old guys from Nomadland. The new front trunk (candidly named “frunk”), which sits squarely where the engine once sat, becomes the most revolutionary thing since the truck bed in this show of misery-on-wheels. Unabashedly.

It’s not like you can get very far either. Without extra charging the Ford F-150 Lightning only offers a range of 370km (230 miles) in the basic version and 482km (300 miles) in the expensive version. But that said, you’ll never be totally alone. Just as the good Christian always carries Jesus in the passenger seat, you will always be accompanied by the spirit of the mother company.

The ad says: You get a truck that’s connected to the engineers at Ford. Needless to say: even the key is an app on your phone. The virtual loop to sell you access to fast chargers or new features in the software is always open. You’re always reachable, you’re always tracked. Ultimately they need to train the AIs that will make self-driving possible for the next generation of pickup trucks.

Workplace?

Your new workbench in the Ford F-150 Lightning
Your new workbench in the Ford F-150 Lightning

But that’s not the end of the bargain: the Ford F-150 Lightning promises to power a food cart, an axial saw and whatever else it takes to keep you going while you’re selling food on the go and doing odd jobs on construction sites. The rear panel is designed as a workbench, with a spot for pencils and a calculator… and even a can so you don’t get dehydrated in the sun. And since there’s always a bit of admin work to do, the driver’s seat is designed to serve as a computerized office. Taxes are due after all!!!

In the world of this Ford F-150 Lightning, the worker living the American dream has already turned, through precarization, into a Mad Max entrepreneur compressed between iron plates and placed on wheels. A day laborer surviving in the loneliness of the road, dependent only on… Ford’s engineers and recharging network.

Ford F-150 Lightning and the war economy

In 2019, Ford sold nearly one million F-150 pickup trucks. Since its introduction in 1948, the F-150 and its various derivatives have generated $41 billion (€33 billion) for the company’s bottom line. It is no exaggeration to say that Ford manufactures the F-150, and marginally some other smaller vehicles, as the Irish Times put it.

So it’s no wonder that the Ford F-150 lightning was premiered by Biden himself

.

The future of the car industry is electric, there is no turning back. China is now leading that race. Don’t be shocked, it’s a fact. They think they’re going to win. But I have news for them. They’re not going to win this race. We can’t let them do that. We’ve got to move fast which is what you do here.

Biden to Ford union workers

To that end, he just unveiled a massive injection of government spending of no less than $6 trillion. The goal: to transform the infrastructure in order to realize the leap as immediately as possible. And among that and just to promote the electric car? 174 billion dollars

I will not allow a single contract from a single company that does not hire American workers, use only American auto-parts, and have a supply chain that is an American supply chain.

Biden to Ford union workers
The Volskwagen ("people's car") was born in a context similar to that of today's Ford F-150 Lightning. It was then part of the reorganization of the German economy for the war.
The Volskwagen (“people’s car”) was born in a context similar to that of today’s Ford F-150 Lightning. It was then part of the reorganization of the German economy for the war.

The historical association is immediate: Politicians inaugurating production lines of people’s vehicles amidst a backdrop of industrial nationalism and trade war while launching massive injections of public money? We already saw that in Europe, it was called Volkswagen, then beetle.

Now, in a sort of unconscious homage, it is called Ford F-150 Lightning but its context is the same: the industrial transformations typical of an economy moving toward the centralization and concentration characteristic of the pre-war periods.

In one case as in the other, they go hand in hand with a reinforcement of the unions coming from the state –the VW was an initiative of the Labor Front -the Nazi unions- in order to generate national high-quality employment– and they both go hand in hand with the development of the war industry and the precarization of labor.

It is no exaggeration to say that the Ford F-150 Lightning, like the Volskwagen in its day, are symbolic and practical milestones on the road to a wartime economy.

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