The Ford F150 message at the North American International Auto Show (NAIAS) was a simple one; steel is out, aluminum is in. In the words of Mark Fields, Chief Operating Officer for Ford, they are “taking America’s favorite truck and reinventing it.”
With the introduction of the all new 2015 F150 at NAIAS Ford is shedding its steel past and stepping into an aluminum future. In a move that began in 2009, when Ford started thinking seriously about the change to a lighter but more expensive material, Ford hopes to address the main concern of their buyers, better fuel consumption without sacrificing truck capability.
The move from steel to military grade aluminum has sliced around 700 pounds from the curb weight of a crew cab F150. Considering the trucks weighs just over 5,000 pounds that’s a substantial diet, and as fuel economy goes, the lighter a vehicle is the better the economy. The entire sheet metal will now be aluminum with the fully boxed frame remaining a high strength steel product. With the weight savings come better fuel consumption, better towing capabilities, and a higher payload.
Though some speculate aluminum will not stand up, some have used empty beer cans as examples of an aluminum product, Ford has submitted the new truck to over 10,000 million miles of testing. If that wasn’t enough they snuck a stock 2015 model disguised as a 2013 F150 into last years Baja 1000. The race was a grueling 882 mile off road loop starting in Ensenada, Baja, Mexico. In the F150 was the newest engine to join the family, a 2.7 liter Ecoboost V-6. The engine reputedly has a great balance of torque and power and should be a popular choice for truck buyers seeking better fuel economy. In a race with fifty percent attrition rates common, the Ford F150 finished without a problem.
Ford has weighed up the F150 argument thoroughly. On top of the weight advantage they claim it’s more dent resistant than steel and will not rust, a feature that will appeal to many in states where salt is used on roads in winter. Ford is so convinced that aluminum is in, and steel is out, that they are talking of introducing it to the rest of their lineup in the future.
The changes to the new Ford F150 don’t stop there, every other aspect of the vehicle has undergone a transformation too. For those that were impressed with the Atlas concept vehicle introduced last January they’ll be pleased to note the basic form of the new F150 is quite similar. The truck has a chunkier front end that gives it strength and the sculpted hood gives it more attitude that its predecessor.
Inside the transformation continues. The dash is well laid out and offers all the usual goodies as well as a couple of new ones. All color screens are now high definition. There are two USB slots and one SD-card slot. There is a 360º camera system giving coverage around the whole vehicle and 110V/400W power outlets in the cab so batteries and tools can be charged. There are LED lights for the box and the mirrors. The list of features is staggering and the fit and finish bringing them all together is well appointed.
Ford is clearly taking a bold step with the transition to aluminum, but looking at the 2015 Ford F150 it’s also clear how motivated they are to making it a successful one. With steel out and aluminum in, Ford isn’t just betting on the F150, they’re betting on the future.
By Scott Wilson