The US company could incorporate more aluminum into its sport utility vehicles and other models in the future, executives said on Monday, following the debut of the lightweight version of Ford’s popular F-150 pickup truck.
The body of the revamped F-150 is 95 % military-grade aluminum alloy – the same kind used in Humvees – and weighs up to 700 pounds less than current truck. Using aluminum rather than steel is a key part of Ford’s strategy to cut between 250 and 750 pounds from each model in its lineup.
“Obviously this is our first shot (at using aluminum in) a big-volume vehicle and there’s absolutely no reason why we couldn’t think about taking it elsewhere,” Executive Chairman Bill Ford told reporters at the Detroit auto show. “It is a lightweight, high-strength material and 700 pounds out of a vehicle like this – that’s a big deal,” he added.
Ford’s gamble that aluminum will give the company a greater edge over rivals stands in contrast to the approach of General Motors, which launched its latest trucks last year, and which this week unveiled its Canyon midsize truck.
“We made a strategic decision to change the game as the leader,” said Joe Hinrichs, Ford’s head of North and South American operations. “We felt that with our volume and our scale we could work with aluminum providers to launch the F-150.”
Consumer tastes and more stringent U.S. fuel economy regulations in the future – known as corporate average fuel economy (CAFE) standards – spurred the No. 2 U.S. automaker to rethink the F-150, the top-selling vehicle in the United States.
The redesign makes the new F-150 “CAFE-positive” for the first time, meaning the truck will help Ford meet those standards instead of lowering the average gasoline mileage of its lineup, Chief Operating Officer Mark Fields said.
Production of the new F-150 would begin in the fourth quarter in Dearborn, Michigan, and in early 2015 in Kansas City, Missouri. The truck will be in U.S. showrooms by the end of 2014.