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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Jan 14, 2014 6:51 PM CST
The environmentalist wacko liberals are ruining our country one product at a time. Now we have tin foil trucks!
Jan 14, 2014 11:15 AM CST
1. Sorry I left this out in my earlier post: All of those 1,000s and 1,000s of fastener suppliers have to change gears. There is this age-old problem of Electrolytic / Galvanic Corrosion. Zinc plated steel fasteners can work for a while, but when the zinc is gone, you've got a different valence metal which will corrode either the aluminum or the fastener depending which is the most noble metal. The more noble metal will become the protected Cathode (positive terminal) and the less noble metal will become the sacrificial anode (negative) terminal which yields itself into solution with the electrolyte that is necessary to be deposited on and further insulate the cathode from damage. You don't have to look at the markings of a battery to know which terminal is the negative one. The plus (+) terminal (cathode) will usually be quite clean compared to the negative (-) (anode) terminal. For galvanic corrosion to occur you need two metals of different valence in the presence of an electrolyte. Sodium Chloride (salt) is a very good electrolyte. If you live in the moist and salted roads of the mid-west and travel to Arizona, for example, ask a few drivers to pop their hoods and note how clean their negative battery terminals are. That's because of the low humidity there and lack of available salt when it rains. Peace
Jan 14, 2014 10:17 AM CST
Some thoughts. First, it's good to see that Ford have finally applied what they presumably learned from owning Land Rover, years after selling that company to Tata Motors. The classic Land Rover, named the Defender towards the end of its production run, was aluminum from its start in the 1940s and was always a superior vehicle to the competing Jeep Wrangler. Of course, more expensive too. But good to see aluminum finally appear in a mass-market vehicle. Second, the F-150 has gotten way too big. Steel F150 trucks 20 years ago weighed what this aluminum one will weigh. So it's not exactly an earth-shattering triumph. I'd like to see a smaller truck made out of aluminum. This thing is the size of a 1990s F250. And there's no longer a Ranger for those who want a truck but not one that's bigger than the front of their house. Third, is a small-block turbo engine the way forward in a big truck? Or is it time to hybridize them? I guess we're going to find out. Fourth, on a related point, a lot of full-size pickup buyers get hung up on features they think they might use but never actually do, and of course this tendency is pandered to by marketers and ad-men who show these things off towing large battleships or 10,000 ton trains. For that reason, these new features would not have come about without the regulatory push towards better gas mileage. Four dollar gas has proven not to be enough to get people to do it on their own.