By Justin Schmidt, Multimedia Journalist - bio | email
Ford’s all-new F-150 is made from high-strength steel and high-strength aluminum alloys, is lighter, tougher, smarter and more capable than the previous F-150. (PRNewsFoto/Ford Motor Company)
CLAYCOMO, MO (KCTV/AP) -
Some call it a game-changer. Some just shake their heads. Either way, Ford's new aluminum-clad F-150 is such a radical departure from past pickup trucks that it dominated talk at the opening of the Detroit auto show last week.
Ford Motor Co. unveiled the 2015 F-150, whose body is 97 percent aluminum last Monday. The lighter material shaves as much as 700 pounds off the 5,000-pound truck, a revolutionary change for a vehicle known for its heft and an industry still reliant on steel. No other vehicle on the market contains this much aluminum.
"It's a landmark moment for the full-size pickup truck," said Jack Nerad, editorial director for Kelley Blue Book.
The change is Ford's response to small-business owners' desire for a more fuel-efficient and nimble truck — and stricter government requirements on fuel economy. It sprang from a challenge by Ford's CEO to move beyond the traditional design for a full-size pickup.
"You're either moving ahead and you're improving and you're making it more valuable and more useful to the customer or you're not," Chief Executive Alan Mulally told The Associated Press in a recent interview.
But it remains to be seen if customers will accept the change.
Larry Knipp knows a good truck. The self-proclaimed Ford man drives a 1972 pickup every day.
The Tonganoxie man has driven countless Fords and owns three. So who better to ask about the 2015 F-150 that will be built in Claycomo?
"The new trucks look great, nice body style. I think they've got a good truck. Looks good," he said.
Ford is taking a big risk. F-Series trucks — which include the F-150 and heavier duty models like the F-250 — have been the best-selling vehicles in the U.S. for the last 32 years. Last year, Ford sold an F-Series every 41 seconds. Ford makes an estimated $10,000 profit on every F-Series truck it sells. Michael Robinet, the managing director of IHS' automotive group, says the trucks account for about a third of the company's revenue in North America — $80 billion in 2012.
Nate Boyer works on other people's trucks every day. He thinks the new F-150 will be as coveted as the classics.
"The Ford has always been at the top. The F-Series started in 1948. It has been around a long time. It has a great history. They've always been the innovator in styling. Everything follows the F-150," Boyer said.
Chris Tracy with LMC Truck says the lost pounds don't make this less of a workhorse.
"That hasn't gone away. They've saved 700 pounds, but they saved it in the body panels. They're really just there for show. The important part of the truck is the frame, which they've strengthened," Tracy said.
But will Ford buyers, like Knipp, buy it?
"I wouldn't get the compliments with a new truck that I do in this one," Knipp said.
The 2015 F-150 goes on sale late this year. As for cost, Ford wouldn't reveal prices, but its truck marketing chief Doug Scott says the F-Series will stay within its current price range even though aluminum costs more than steel. F-Series trucks now range from a starting price of $24,445 for a base model to $50,405 for a top-of-the-line Limited.
Ford's Claycomo plant will be switch to production of the 2015 F-150 this fall.
Copyright 2014 KCTV (Meredith Corp.) All rights reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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