It seems all but certain the world will switch to electric vehicles (EVs), and the change could happen sooner than we anticipate. That has sent waves of investors jumping into stocks for electric battery technology and charging station infrastructure, among other opportunities. But Ford (F 0.39%) remains an afterthought for EV investors, and that could be a huge mistake.

Trucks will remain key for automakers

Among the major questions facing Detroit automakers was how the companies would transition from traditional combustion-engine large trucks to electric versions, and would consumers buy in?

These large trucks haul a majority of the bottom-line profits for Detroit, and losing that -- or even hindering it -- would be catastrophic for investors. The early signs from F-150 Lightning sales are strong, and we have evidence that the electric version of popular models could even outsell the traditional sooner than we imagined.

Ford's F-150 Lightning

Ford's F-150 Lightning. Image source: Ford Motor Company.

What does the data show?

Starting from the top, Ford's EV sales outpaced the overall segment with a 197% jump in September, compared to the prior year. Another angle: Ford's share of the EV segment jumped 310 basis points, or 3.1 percentage points, to 7% of the industry.

Looking at hybrids in particular, Ford's sales totaled over 74,000 vehicles through September, which was a year-to-date jump of 22.6% compared to the prior year. Its popular Maverick, which sells in the hybrid version almost 50% of the time, is driving off dealer lots in an average of just six days.

As previously mentioned, perhaps the most important model to watch, the F-150 Lightning, was America's best-selling electric pickup in September and continues to impress since its June launch. The electric truck continues to fly off the lots, turning inventory in just eight days.

A success story, or two

A question for investors remains: Will the electric version of the F-150 ever sell to the volume its traditional model has? Only time will tell, but we have evidence from a similar Ford product that shows it's clearly possible.

Another model that consumers and investors questioned whether it would excel as an electric is the Mustang. The iconic muscle car seemed to be at the other end of the spectrum from an EV, but looking at sales, you'd never guess there was reason to doubt its potential.

2023 Mustang Mach-E Premium Nite Pony Package.

2023 Mustang Mach-E Premium Nite Pony Package. Image source: Ford Motor Company.

Year-to-date sales of the Mustang Mach-E are up 49% to over 28,000 units through September. Not only are those numbers reaching mainstream levels for a major automaker, they're also closing the gap on outselling its traditional counterpart, which sold just under 36,600 units through September. 

Another reason for investors to be optimistic about the F-150 Lightning can be seen in Ford's Maverick truck, which has the previously mentioned popular hybrid option. Maverick sales reached nearly 52,000 vehicles sold through September and, while not completely apples-to-apples in comparison due to its smaller size, topped the Ranger's 46,293 units sold through the same period.

And more than 80% of Maverick customers are first-timers in the truck segment, with 62% new to Ford entirely. These are huge wins in the highly loyal automotive industry.

The potential is tantalizing

There are plenty of intriguing investments as the world's roads fill with EVs, but investors would be making a mistake to overlook Ford's potential. The folks at the Blue Oval have proved they can develop electric and/or hybrid versions of iconic muscle cars and trucks, and sell them at mainstream volumes.

If they can replicate the sales success of the Mach-E and Maverick with the F-150 Lightning, it will likely open the doors for Ford's historic profit machine to keep on hauling the big bucks for decades to come.