Ford Reveals Radical Change to F-150
Its famous steel body will now be 97% aluminum
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jan 13, 2014 9:35 AM CST
Ford unveils the new F-150 with a body built almost entirely out of aluminum at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit, Monday, Jan. 13, 2014.   (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)

(Newser) – For 66 years, Ford pickups have been, well "built Ford tough." Their 5,000 pounds have cleared tornado debris, pulled Rose Bowl floats, and plowed snow. And they've shouldered those loads with parts forged from steel. Until now. Ford today unveiled a new F-150 (the 2015 model year) with a body built almost entirely out of aluminum, which shaves as much as 700 pounds off the truck, a revolutionary change for a vehicle known for its heft and an industry still heavily reliant on steel. Standout facts and details about the change, which comes in response to small-business owners' desire for a more fuel-efficient truck—and stricter government requirements on fuel economy:

  • So how much of the body is aluminum? 97%, the most extensive use of aluminum ever in a truck.
  • And how fuel efficient will it be? Ford won't say, beyond saying it'll trump the competition. Chrysler's Ram is currently the most fuel-efficient pickup, getting 25mpg on the highway. The current F-150 gets as much as 23mpg.
  • How big a gamble is it for Ford? Big. F-Series trucks have been the best-selling vehicles in the US 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, making them a $7.6 billion profit center in the US alone last year.
  • When can I buy one, and how much will it cost? Late this year, and the same as a steel F-150. While aluminum is more expensive than steel, a Ford rep says the F-Series will stay within the current price range: right now, that's $24,445 for a base model to $50,405 for a top-of-the-line Limited.
  • How much pricier is aluminum? It's difficult to calculate, since there are different grades of aluminum and steel. The F-150's chief engineer says Ford expects to make up the premium by reducing its recycling costs, since there will be less metal to recycle, and by slimming down the engine and other components, since they won't have to move so much weight.
  • Is aluminum something new for cars? Not at all. It was used on cars even before the first F-Series went on sale in 1948, and is widely used on sporty, low-volume cars now, like the Tesla Model S electric sedan and the Land Rover Evoque. US Postal Service trucks are also made of aluminum.
  • What's Ford pushing as its perks? The company says the new truck will tow and haul more, since the engine doesn't have to account for so much weight. It can also accelerate and stop more quickly. Aluminum doesn't rust, Ford says, and it's more resistant to dents.
  • Neatest detail: The company planted prototype F-150s with three companies—in mining, construction, and power—for two years without revealing they were aluminum. The companies didn't notice a difference.

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