While it’s a common process to test each new generation vehicle to a great extent, Ford’s new aluminum bodied F-150 is a pick-up that needs to thoroughly prove its durability when compared to its steel predecessor.
In order to have a better fuel economy – needed to achieve the ever more stringent pollution regulations – the new generation F-150 has lost some 700 pounds (almost 320 kg) off its weight. It did that by keeping the steel frame and making all the body out of military grade aluminum, which is more lightweight.
Before it goes on sales later in the fourth quarter, not only customers but experts alike need to be reassured the working horse of America is just as – or even more durable than usually. So, Ford took into the open the testing process and shed some behind-the-curtain light on how its engineers developed and tested the model since the 2009 decision to incorporate the new material.
“Engineers tried to break it in testing,” says Raj Nair, global product development chief.
“They abused the truck,” said engineer Bruno Barthelemy. “It’s kind of sad when you’re the engineer. But we wanted a tough truck, so we developed special tests so it performs better than the truck today.”
11 prototypes were initially built and durability testing was increased to reach 10 million cumulative miles. One of them even went on to compete in the Baja off-road race – with the team not knowing they had an aluminum body or a prototype of the new 2.7-liter turbocharged EcoBoost engine. Others were tested in the field – with mining, construction and utility companies testing them – again without the knowledge they’re using a new truck.