"Our first electric will not be a super-rational small car," Farley said. "It will be a larger utility and will have a new silhouette, but will be about being fun to drive."
However, there is a bit of doubt as to whether customers want to pay more, even for a nice vehicle, said Autotrader executive analyst Michelle Krebs. Automakers have so far been able to get away with charging higher prices for SUVs and crossovers precisely because customers are willing to pay more for a more flexible, capable vehicles. But there may be a ceiling on how much buyers are willing to spend.
"The No. 1 complaint in our data is that vehicles are too expensive," Krebs said.
That said, offering more hybrids and electrics in body styles already customers are buying is a start to higher sales.
"One of the problems with electric vehicles introduced so far (except for the pricey Model X) is that they have been cars, not sport utilities and trucks, which are far more popular than are traditional cars," she said.
Offering other benefits, whether it is on-board capability or perks, such as access to carpool lanes, can also draw buyers, though they still make up a small portion of the total market.
"EVs still have a long way to go before they car commonplace," she said.
But Ford has picked up some lessons from its past that it said will help clear the hurdle of potentially higher sticker prices that come with investments in new electrified drive trains, Ford's Farley said.
Building the iconic truck with more aluminum was initially a play to lighten the vehicle and make it more fuel efficient. But it's pricey.
It didn't matter. People bought the truck anyway.
"We learned when we did aluminum F-150 that people are willing to pay more for a truck if you give it more capability," Farley told CNBC at the Detroit auto show this week.
"When we made the vehicle lighter, we also had more towing, more payload," he said. "And pickup customers are willing to pay for that. So even though the material was more expensive, they actually paid more money for it. Today we have the highest price of any full-size truck because of that."
That means higher profits, which will need if it plans to stay competitive in a market where technology is changing so rapidly.
"And we are now applying that lesson of offering capability across our lineup," he said.
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