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Ford's first F-150 Lightning pickup truck prototypes are rolling out of the factory in Dearborn, Mich., for real-world testing. Photo: Ford Motor

The electric Ford F-150 Lightning pickup hasn't even gone on sale yet, but demand is so hot that the company is already expanding production.

Driving the news: The first Lightning prototypes are leaving Ford's Dearborn, Mich., factory for real-world testing, with the truck available to customers next spring.

  • But with 150,000 "pre-orders" in hand, Ford said today it will invest an additional $250 million and add 450 more jobs to boost production at the EV assembly plant and two nearby component factories.
  • The moves will help increase production capacity to 80,000 trucks a year.

Why it matters: Many have questioned whether truck buyers would trade their gas-powered workhorse for an electric pickup that needs to be plugged in every day. Ford's decision to expand production capacity shows that the company is increasingly confident the answer is yes.

What they're saying: “We knew the F-150 Lightning was special, but the interest from the public has surpassed our highest expectations and changed the conversation around electric vehicles. So we are doubling down, adding jobs and investment to increase production,” said executive chairman Bill Ford.

Details: The new $250 million investment follows $700 million invested last year to prepare Ford's historic Rouge manufacturing plant for electric vehicle production.

What to watch: The F-150 Lightning, which starts at $40,000 and aims to provide up to 300 miles of driving range, goes on sale next spring.

Go deeper

Ben Geman, author of Generate
Dec 17, 2021 - Energy & Environment

Report: The ocean wind economy will need lots of space

Expand chart
Recreated from DNV; Note: Estimates begin after 2018, the most recent year with complete data; Chart: Jacque Schrag/Axios

The evolution of ocean-based industries — the "blue economy" — will include a huge increase in demand for marine areas for wind turbines, a new report finds.

The big picture: The advisory and risk management firm DNV is out with detailed analyses of ocean industries in the coming decades.

Kate Marino, author of Markets
Dec 17, 2021 - Economy & Business

Charted: America is making more stuff

Data: FRED; Chart: Axios Visuals

The supply-driven setback in industrial production in August and September is now looking more like a temporary blip.

Driving the news: Production rose 0.5% in November, and within that, manufacturing activity gained 0.7%, new data out from the Federal Reserve show.

Dec 17, 2021 - Axios Tampa Bay

Scoop: LED screen startup raises $10M seed round

Founder Jonathan Davila stands in front of the Vū Studio production screen. Photo courtesy Allison Distasi/Omni Public

A year after Vū Studio took over former retail spaces at University Mall, its founders say they've raised the biggest seed round ever for a Tampa tech company.

What's happening: Tim Moore and Jonathan Davila tell Axios their production company has received a $10 million seed investment from Minnesota-based ADX Labs, at a $50 million valuation.

  • The funding will help advance the tech and open new studios in Nashville and Las Vegas next year.

What they do: Vū uses an LED Volume screen made up of 500 panels to create realistic backdrops that can move and change along with camera angles.

  • It's as close as you can possibly be to a location without actually being there and what Davilla calls "game engine technology combined with traditional production."
  • In the year since Vū opened, it's been used by brands like WWE, Mercedes, Apple, and Neiman Marcus along with artists like Bad Bunny and Twenty One Pilots.

What they're saying: "Green screen is going to go totally extinct and be replaced by this technology," Davilla said. "It's just so much more realistic looking."

  • "And you'll never miss a shot."

Why it matters: This is the kind of technology that got projects like "The Mandalorian" made when the pandemic stopped people from filming on location.

  • Vū is one of only a handful of similar studios in the country and claims to be the nation's first LED Volume virtual production company specializing in commercials.
  • Virtual production is set to expand into a multi-billion dollar industry, Davilla said, and Tampa is at the forefront of that.
  • "This is a real blue ocean opportunity."

Background: The studio is part of Rithm at Uptown, the tech campus taking over the mall along with other innovators like the USF program designing the future of casualty-free warfare.

💭 Selene's thought bubble: This place is beyond cool. My jaw was dragging on the floor the whole time. I can't wait to see where this goes and who it brings to Tampa.