Born And Raised On Ford, Check Out Longtime Bill Brown Ford Customer Joe Norat And His Transition To The All-Electric F-150 Lightning
In early September, Bill Brown Ford had the pleasure of helping longtime customer Joe Norat get the authentic Ford F-150 Lightning experience by facilitating a personal tour of the Ford Motor Company Rouge Electric Vehicle Center. At the time, Joe was awaiting delivery of his brand new all-electric F-150 Lightning, and he wanted to tour the REVC to honor his late father, Joe Sr., who had a life-long career with FMC trucks. Now that Joe has been living with his new Ford truck for the last month, we wanted to know precisely how Joe has been adjusting to the EV life in retirement after driving Ford’s internal combustion engines his whole life. However, let’s first look at Joe’s history with Ford and why he wanted an EV after purchasing his F-150 in 2018, which was supposed to be his last vehicle.
A Michigan Family Built On Ford
As a loyal customer of the Ford brand, Joe’s family has been purchasing Ford vehicles from Bill Brown since 1962. It all started with his father, Joe Sr., a 1947 graduate of the Henry Ford trade school. He began working for FMC as a tool maker and was later promoted to Experimental Parts Coordinator, where he worked on the Ford truck team before retiring in 1986.
When asking Joe about his favorite Ford vehicles throughout the years, one rang clear in his mind; a 1963 Falcon Futura purchased right here from Bill Brown Ford in Livonia, MI. Even though he was only five, Joe remembers clearly stating that “at the time, the main showroom, which is still in the same place, at the corner of Hubbard and Plymouth, was all glassed in with a turntable featuring the 63′ Falcon Futura. My mother loved it. The salesman came up inquiring if we needed any help. My mother told him she wanted the one on the turntable but wasn’t sure if it was for sale.” Joe recalls the Bill Brown sales associate saying, “if you want it, it’s yours.” Their family had that car until 1981, even rebuilding it before selling it later down the road.
“That car has a history all the way from me being a preschooler into my wife driving the Futura to Ann Arbor when she worked for the University of Michigan,” stated Joe. Joe and his family also owned a 1965 Mustang, a 1972 Torino, and a 1975 Thunderbird that he drove as the getaway car for his wedding. After, Joe had a 1978 Bronco and then has driven an F-150 since 1997. In 2018, he purchased a new F-150 pickup using Ford X-plan, a Ford employee incentive and discount for family and friends. Joe purchased that truck with the intention of it being his last vehicle until the F-150 Lightning came out. Find out below what inspired Joe to make the transition to a Ford electric vehicle.
Q.) What made you want to buy the Ford F-150 Lightning?
A.) The introduction online that they did when they introduced it out in front of the glass house really sparked my interest, but as soon as they talked about the Pro Power Onboard feature and how you can power your home, I said, I got to have one of these because my power goes out pretty much once a month in my Dearborn Heights neighborhood. I also felt it was the right time to transition to an EV and I trust Ford to make them the right way. Bill Brown had a reservation link, and I gave my $100 and said, put me on the list! Salesman Keith Jewell then helped me convert my reservation into an order when order banks opened.
When asked if Joe has had the opportunity to utilize his truck’s portable generator, he explained that he hasn’t lost power yet, but has been able to test out his circular saw.
Q.) Are there any features you enjoy that you didn’t expect you would?
A.) Yeah. The one thing that I am liking is the keyless entry, where when I walk up to the truck and stick my hand into the opening latch, it unlocks. I don’t have to push the button, which I’m used to doing. I walk at the Henry Ford Museum, I’ve been a member there, you know, my entire life, and when I come back after my walk, I don’t have to pull my keys out of my pocket and push the button. That’s a wonderful thing.
Q.) How has it been adjusting to driving an Electric Vehicle?
A.) You know it’s funny, when I was 12 or 13 years old, I built a mini bike, but I did it differently. I took a starter motor out of a 61 Corvair and the old battery out of my dad’s Falcon when he retired it because it wasn’t reliable anymore. And I made an electric mini bike that I would drive over to my buddy’s house, which was one mile almost exactly door to door. And we’d hang out and play all day. Then I’d ride it home, and it would almost make it. There was a big hill by my house, and most times, I could get enough of a roll coming down that hill that I’d get all the way home. If not, I’d have to push it a little ways. So my first actual motorized vehicle was electric, and now here I am with what should be my last vehicle, which is also electric. Overall, I’m enjoying it and adjusting, but I am having the typical charging anxiety that everybody has.
My son has an EV down in Florida. He works for a company, which writes all the software very similar to the FordPass App, but he does it for the open market. He’s had his EV for about six months, and this is in his comfort zone. He’s coming up next month and said, “Dad, I’m taking away your charging anxiety.” We’re going on a road trip up to the Soo Locks in November. He’s already plotted the course, so it’ll be two to three charges. We have it planned out on the FordPass App and my son’s software. He’s going to keep an eye on things and make sure I don’t chew my nails worrying about running out of juice. My other son and ex-wife also have EVs so i’m learning quickly.
Q.) Have you been charging your F-150 Lightning at home or using quick charge stations around town?
A.) I have yet to use any quick charge stations. That’s where I’m in the dark a little. When I go to the Henry Ford Museum to walk, on the far side of the parking lot is the Automotive Hall of Fame. It’s a car museum not related to the village, and they have two charging posts that are free. So every time I go for a walk, I plug in, but they’re the low-end chargers. I walk for an hour and a half, and when I’m done, I gain about 14 miles from the charge. So that’s where I’m getting anxious because I still need to do quick chargers. My son keeps telling me fast chargers make all the difference. So I’m excited to test them out on our upcoming trip and hopefully get rid of my range anxiety.
At home, I have the charger that came with the truck, and I installed that on the side of the house and had an electrician put in a good circuit for it. So far, I’ve been able to charge it at home once a week and during my walks, and it’s more than enough range.
Q.) Based on your time with the F-150 Lightning and charging, are you confident the EV can maintain the range you had with your previous internal combustion engine?
A.) This will work out fine for me! I do worry for deer hunting season, where I go to Ludington on the far side of the state for winter camp, which I’ve been doing with my friends of 60 years for as long as I can remember. We also go snowshoeing up in Traverse City. Hopefully, this Sault Ste. Marie’s trip with my son will help me overcome the anxiety about doing my trip. Other than that, it’s all local. I ride my motorcycle around town as well.
Q.) Ultimately, are you happy you made the transition to an Electric Vehicle?
A.) Yes, I’ve lowered my carbon footprint by getting rid of an internal combustion engine. Any issues I have had, my great team at Bill Brown, including Joe Schutte, has been flawless and helpful for decades. You know, I got my kids to help me through the high-end stuff, too. I mean, younger people have grown up with this. I’m 64. But overall, for me personally, it’s appearing to be a satisfactory move I am happy I have made.