Report: Ford's Best-Selling F-150 to Lose 700 lbs to Meet EPA Fuel Standards
July 27, 2012 8:34 AM
The Ford F-150 will make extensive use of aluminum which could add $1,500 to the cost of the truck
Upcoming fuel standards
proposed by the Obama Administration
are affecting all auto manufacturers. The regulations would see the Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) rise every year for manufacturers from 2017 through 2025. By 2025, auto manufacturer will be expected to meet a
fleetwide 54.5 mpg CAFE average
The Department of Transportation says that meeting the 54.5 mpg CAFE average will save customers nearly $7,000 in lifetime fuel costs, but that figure will be mostly offset by the increase in costs associated with more advanced powertrains and lightweight materials needed to achieve that goal (the National Automobile Dealers Association claims that "fuel saving technologies"
will add $5,000 to the cost of a 2025 model year vehicle
I. Aluminum to the Rescue
According to a new report by the
Wall Street Journal
, Ford is already well on its way to making one of its most popular gas guzzlers more fuel efficient in the coming years. The F-Series has been the best selling truck in America for the past 30 years, so any drastic changes made to Ford's most profitable vehicle line aren't taken lightly. But in this case, "lightly" is exactly what's on Ford's mind -- the next generation F-150 will reportedly make extensive use of aluminum to drastically shed the pounds to boost fuel economy by as much as 25%.
The current F-150's hood has been made of aluminum since 2004, but applications of the lightweight metal will spread to include the doors, cargo box, fenders, front suspension/steering components, and portions of the interior structure. When all is said and done, the next generation F-150 will shed roughly 700 pounds of weight thanks to aluminum.
"Aluminum is certainly a big opportunity for weight reduction," said Raj Nair, Ford's global chief of product development earlier this year. "We have been public that weight reduction is going to be a big part of our strategy."
II. Extra Aluminum Means Added Costs for Customers
However, the intensive use of aluminum in the next generation F-150 doesn't come without its downsides. Aluminum is harder to work with than steel when it comes to building vehicles. In addition, aluminum body parts are costlier and harder to repair which in turn leads to higher insurance premiums.
And then there's the issue of costs for the buyer when it comes time to sign on the dotted line for new truck. It's estimated that Ford's new aluminum obsession will add roughly $1,500 in material costs to the F-150 (which would most likely be passed on to the customer). This is a risky bet for a vehicle that is a cash cow for Ford.
Ford CEO Alan Mulally stands beside a 2013 Ford F-150 Limited
However, some feel that customers will eventually come around to Ford's master plan. "There is going to be a certain percentage of the people that will bitch and complain, but they will ultimately get that vehicle," said Mike Shaw, owner of more than a dozen auto dealerships in the state of Colorado. "They may hold off for a little and keep their old ones longer. Then they will buy a new one."
Naturally, a spokesman for Ford is downplaying the
Wall Street Journal's
article on such a dramatic weight reduction, perhaps not wanting to spoil what it has in store for F-150. "It is premature to discuss specific approaches or solutions that we might use for future products," stated Ford spokesman Said Deep in an interview with
. "Ford is already a leader in aluminum use in full-sized pickups. We're constantly looking at multiple ways to improve the fuel efficiency and capabilities of our cars and trucks with innovative technologies."
III. Gains in Fuel Economy Already Being Made
Reducing weight isn’t the only option Ford has on the table for increasing fuel economy on its best-seller. Two years ago, Ford introduced an all-new lineup of V6 and V8 engines to the F-150 to not only increase power, but also increase fuel efficiency across the board.
The 302hp 3.7-liter V6 already helps the current F-150 achieve best-in-class fuel economy of 17/23 (city/highway). Likewise, the EcoBoost V6 has been a popular option with buyers, offering performance superior to the available 5.0-liter V8 while achieving fuel economy ratings of 16/22 (city/highway).
Ford's 3.5-liter EcoBoost V6 engine is optional on the current F-150
The two V6 options have proved to be powerful and popular enough to account for
over 50% of all F-150 sales
; numbers that are typically unheard of for a full-size pickup truck.
Reduced vehicle weight along with more efficient powertrains could make for some interesting options for truck buyers in the future. It may seem sacrilege to even mention this, but could we possibly even see a
F-150 in the future?
Wall Street Journal
"You can bet that Sony built a long-term business plan about being successful in Japan and that business plan is crumbling." -- Peter Moore, 24 hours before his Microsoft resignation
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