Ford starts prolongation of new aluminum F-150

November 11, 2014 - photo frame

DEARBORN, Mich. (AP) — It’s Ford Motor Co.’s biggest gamble in decades: an aluminum-sided F-150 that could set a new attention customary — or cost a association a pickup lorry crown.

Ford was scheduled to start prolongation of a 2015 F-150 Tuesday during a Dearborn Truck Plant, 4 miles from a company’s headquarters. It will arrive during U.S. dealerships subsequent month.

Ford thinks a lorry that is lighter and some-more fuel efficient, though even some-more capable, will win buyers while a competitors onslaught to locate up. Aluminum — that is lighter than steel though usually as clever — isn’t new to a automobile industry, though this is a initial time it will cover a whole physique of such a high-volume vehicle. Ford finished 647,697 F-150 pickups during a dual U.S. plants final year; that’s one each 49 seconds.

There are large risks. F-Series trucks have been a best-selling vehicles in a U.S. for 37 true years; final year, Ford sole scarcely 100,000 some-more full-size pickups than General Motors. Any peculiarity problems, prolongation hiccups or patron doubts about aluminum could delayed sales and harm Ford’s bottom line. Morgan Stanley estimates F-Series trucks comment for 90 percent of Ford’s tellurian automotive profit.

CEO Mark Fields told a AP he is assured Ford finished a right decision. The new lorry has been by 10 million miles of testing, that is some-more than any other automobile in Ford’s history, he says.

Top managers concluded unanimously to switch to aluminum during a assembly in 2012.

“Were we noticing that it was a risk? Sure,” Fields says. “But it was a really distributed and sensitive risk that gave us a certainty that we were going to get this done.”

If Ford’s gamble pays off, it could benefit an even some-more autocratic lead in a remunerative lorry market. More importantly, aluminum “future proofs” a lorry — and a association — in an epoch of rising fuel economy standards, says Karl Brauer, a comparison researcher with Kelley Blue Book.

“If Ford masters a art of delivering an aluminum automobile during a turn a F-150 sells, they are going to be means to enhance that to Mustangs, Edges and Lincolns,” Brauer says.

Truck buyers are among a many constant in a automobile market, and Ford can count on many of them. The association says some-more than 224,600 intensity buyers have already asked for some-more sum about a truck.

But even some Ford loyalists have their doubts. Ginny Pruet, who runs a marriage let business in Rockwall, Texas, recently traded her 2012 F-150 for a 2014 chronicle since she wanted a backup camera.

Pruet, 54, has checked out a 2015 chronicle during automobile shows. She is tender by a new truck’s bells and whistles, like a mobile LED spotlights on a side mirrors. But she’s endangered that aluminum is untested and not value a additional cost. Ford has lifted a cost of a bottom indication by $395 to $26,615, including end fees. A fancier King Ranch chronicle costs $3,615 more.

Ford’s guarantee of improved fuel economy also unsuccessful to lean Pruet, who is profitable reduction than $3 a gallon for gasoline in her area. Fuel economy numbers won’t be expelled until after this month, though Ford has pronounced a 2015 lorry will have adult to 20 percent improved fuel economy than a effusive model, that gets adult to 23 mpg on a highway.

Ford has a waste of introducing a lorry as gas prices are attack a four-year low. But Fields says even when gas prices were $1.25, lorry buyers still asked for improved fuel economy.

“These vehicles are not usually vehicles to a customers. They’re collection to assistance them do their job,” Fields says. “This thing has to deliver.”

John Krafcik, a boss of a automobile shopping site TrueCar.com, says pickup drivers will be drawn by a truck’s capability. The F-150 sits on a high-strength steel support that’s carrying reduction weight from a truck, so it can lift some-more load and transport heavier trailers. The new F-150 can draw adult to 12,200 pounds compared with 12,000 for a Silverado and 10,500 for a Ram.

Ford is spending some-more than $1 billion to retrofit a plants in Dearborn and Claycomo, Missouri, where a trucks are assembled, as good as a steel stamping plants that make a parts, says Bruce Hettle, Ford’s clamp boss of manufacturing, who spent 3 years formulation a changeover.

Sparks used to fly from a loud robots welding steel in a Dearborn physique shop. Now, 500 new robots sensitively secure aluminum tools together. At Ford’s Dearborn stamping plant, new machines collect and arrange aluminum for recycling, that couldn’t be finished with steel.

Ford also helped dealers with a $30,000 to $50,000 cost to retrofit their correct shops, says mouthpiece Elizabeth Weigandt.

Around 700 of a company’s 1,500 dealers who do collision repairs have left by association training on aluminum, along with 700 eccentric correct shops. Weigandt says Ford took stairs to minimize correct costs. Because of a approach a aluminum is sectioned, for example, a roof doesn’t have to be private to correct to a B-pillar, that sits usually behind a front doors.

Russell Barnett updated a correct emporium during his Ford dealership in Winchester, Tennessee. Barnett total that in 3 to 4 years other brands will be adopting a same technology, so a investment will compensate for itself.

Jason Cannon doesn’t transport most some-more than an occasional Christmas tree in his 2006 F-150. But Cannon, 34, a author who lives in Demopolis, Alabama, says he wouldn’t expostulate anything else.

Cannon’s usually wish is that he got improved fuel economy than a 15 to 16 mpg he averages around town. That’s because he’s eyeing a 2015 F-150 with a 2.7-liter EcoBoost engine, a V6 that could give him identical horsepower to his stream V8.

Cannon says he wouldn’t demur to buy aluminum.

“This is an F-150. The record is proven,” he says. “This is a same song, usually a opposite verse.”

___

Auto Writer Tom Krisher contributed from Detroit.

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