You will still see those tough guy truck ads during NFL games, but Ford (F) is trying to convince buyers that high-gas mileage pickups can still be manly. With its redesigned F-150 being introduced Monday at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit, Ford is moving to an all-aluminum body that drops 700 pounds in weight and boosts gas mileage.Not only is the F-150 part of the perennial best-selling vehicle line in America, it is a major contributor to Ford's corporate profits. "This is a critical redesign, not just for Ford but for the entire full-size truck market as we enter an era of rapidly-increasing fuel efficiency standards," says senior analyst Karl Brauer of Kelley Blue Book. "Ford needs to establish the F-150 as a future-friendly model that will keep pace with government regulations while still meeting the demands of serious truck buyers."
Ford has not yet announced EPA ratings for the new pickup but has suggested that it might approach 30 MPG in its highway rating, which would top competitors. As for the serious truck buyers, Ford will be pitching to them that the new F-150 can carry more and tow more than its predecessor. The company said the new design had been tested for more than 10 million miles, including customers who cooperated in using the pickup in construction, mining and electric utility work. And the new truck successfully completed the grueling Baja 1,000 off-road race.
In addition Ford kept in mind the business owners who need to work from their pickup. "More than ever before, customers want a truck that is a dependable partner, mobile office and a go-anywhere workshop," says Raj Nair, Ford group vice president for global product development. For this customer, the new F-150 will offer features such as a laptop storage compartment.
Here are some of the other features of the 2015 F-150:
- New engine lineup: The lighter weight lets Ford add some slightly smaller, higher-MPG engines. The base engine is a new 3.5-liter V-6, down from 3.7-liter in the previous model. The 3.5-liter turbocharged V-6 Ecoboost, which has been a popular option, will be continued along with the 5-liter V-8.
- Cargo convenience: New integrated ramps up to the bed will make it easier to load ATVs, motorcycles and lawn mowers. A combination of metal brackets and cleats in the cargo box will help tie down items back there. Remote locking and unlocking of the tailgate with the key fob will cut down on trips to the rear of the truck.
- Safety features: The new F-150 will add some advanced safety features such as so-called Lane Keeping, which warns the driver if he is drifting out of his intended lane. Adaptive cruise control keeps the truck a certain distance from the vehicle ahead in highway driving. And a feature called Curve Control increases four-wheel braking if the truck is headed into a curve too fast.
The new 2015 F-150 with the aluminum body atop a high-strength but lightweight steel frame will go on sale in the fourth quarter of this year.