Ford executives were on the offensive at the Detroit auto show today as they introduced the world's most significant aluminum-framed vehicle, the new Ford F-150 pickup truck, and ticked off stat after stat about the company's burgeoning position and success in the US and global automotive markets.
The new 2015 Ford F-150, to go on sale sometime this year, represents for Ford not only the crucial newest version of America's best-selling vehicle but also the manifestation of a huge technological bet encouraged by CEO Alan Mulallly.
When the truck debuts, not only will it be the newest entry among the Detroit Three pickup-truck segment but also, with the aluminum frame, the new F-150 could be perceived by truck buyers as a whole generation ahead of the competition. Chevrolet just introduced a new version of its Silverado pickup truck, which was named North America Truck/Utility of the Year this morning, while Chrysler also launched a substantially reworked version of its Ram last year.
"If anything, I've learned you have to go faster and bet bigger when you are doing well," Cord Chairman Bill Ford Jr. told the Wall Street Journal. And on Monday, Mulally told reporters at the North American International Auto Show that the company plans to use aluminum more thoroughly throughout its product lineup.
Ford executives on Monday touted the new F-150 for advances such as a new body and load bed made almost entirely of an aluminum alloy that allowed the vehicle to shed as much as 700 pounds compared with the current version. “That will help the truck tow more and haul more and accelerate more quickly and stop in a shorter time with better fuel economy,” noted Raj Nair, Ford’s head of global product development.
F-150 has been the best-selling truck in the US market for 37 years and one of the best-selling vehicles in the world. The new version comes after more than 10 million miles of testing that, among other things, yielded the “military-grade” aluminum frame.
The new F-150 also will feature class-exclusive LED headlights and taillights, a class-leading-size moon roof, a 360-degree-view exterior camera and an 8-inch “productivy” screen on the dash for infotainment purposes, among other advancements.
Ford executives also said that the company expects global sales growth of another 25 percent, the small-car share of its global sales to exceed 50 percent by the end of the decade, and that the Asia-Pacific region will account for more than one-third of Ford’s total worldwide sales by that time.
Mulally also noted that Ford now has sold more than 10 million vehicles worldwide and more than two million vehicles with fuel-efficient EcoBoost engines over the last four years. Ambitiously, Ford plans to introduce 23 new vehicles this year, including 16 in North America—triple the number of its launches last year.
Ford also plans what Mulally called “the most ambitious manufacturing expansion” in 50 years, including additions to six assembly plants in the United States alone and the creation of more than 11,000 jobs this year worldwide.
Yet no doubt, there's no more important bet on the future for Ford than the aluminum F-150—a vehicle that, the brand is confident, is more than capable of handling the load.