Ford Takes Big Gamble with New Aluminum F-150

Ford Motor Company has reportedly chosen next month’s Detroit Auto Show as the venue to launch its aluminum F series pickup.  An unidentified person who claims to have knowledge of the automaker’s plans says Ford’s auto show display will feature military-grade aluminum manufactured by Alcoa Incorporated to demonstrate the advantages of aluminum in automotive applications.

During last year’s Detroit Auto Show, Ford’s chief operating officer Mark Fields pledged the automaker would share as much as 750 pounds off of its flagship F-150 pickup to comply with tougher fuel-economy standards.  The new U.S. fuel standards require automakers to achieve 54.4 miles per gallon by 2025.

Extensive use of aluminum in the hood, doors and various other parts of the body will allow the automaker to fit the new F-150 with smaller, lighter powertrains, gas tanks and other components.

IHS analyst Joe Langley says, “This is already the most significant debut at the auto show. Everybody’s going to be dissecting that thing for a long time, especially since Ford will be taking such a big gamble.”

The F-series has been Ford’s best-selling vehicle for 32 consecutive years, and has been the best-selling truck in the U.S. for 37 years.

The move from a steel frame to an aluminum one will require massive changes in the way F-150 pickups are built.  The new F-150 will also sport a brawny new appearance based on the Atlas design concept, which was revealed by Fields about a year ago.

Ford has already added thousands of new employees to support the rollout of the redesigned F-150.  The switch will also require an estimated six week shutdown in production for assembly line retooling at its factories in Claycomo, Missouri and Davenport, Iowa.  The F-250 and F-550 pickups are assembled at Ford’s Louisville, Kentucky plant.

The 2014 F-150 will feature a new 2.7-liter EcoBoost engine, which the automaker has reportedly code-named “Nano.”  The smallest engine available in the current model is the 3.5-liter Ecoboost.

The next-generation F-150 pickup truck is expected to go on sale in the U.S. during the second half of next year.

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