The 2015 Ford F-Series will be slimmer by up to 700 pounds. If you don’t think that’s huge, you haven’t talked to Joe Hinrichs, the former Ford of Canada boss who now runs all of Ford’s business in North America.
But I did this morning. Stripping out 700 pounds by replacing steel with aluminum presents a long, long list of problems – or challenges, as they say in the car business, he said. It’s not that car companies don’t know how to make vehicles out of aluminum. The challenge for Ford is to make 700,000 or 800,000 pickups out of aluminum.
Yes, yes, Jaguar has been making XJ sedans and F-Type sports cars out of aluminum. “But it takes them more than four years to do the same volume” we do with the F-Series in a single year,” said Hinrichs.
Hinrichs said Ford has been highly focused on nailing the launch of this next-generation F-Series. Quality criticisms of recent Ford models have resonated at the highest levels of the company.
More importantly, one analyst told me this morning that each pickup is worth $5,000 or more in before-tax profits to Ford. The F isn’t Ford’s only model, but it’s Ford most profitable one and its owners are the most loyal.
One test Ford has done to ensure the reliability and durability of the aluminum F-Series involved the Baja 1000 endurance race. Ford built an aluminum version of the outgoing F-Series and ran it in the race – with no problems, said Hinrichs. Well, there was one problem: the magnetic plate given to Ford by the organizers to identify the truck would not, of course, stick to the door. Magnets stick to steel, but not aluminum.
Enter duct tape. Ford duct-taped the plate to the vehicle and ran the 1000 without creating any of the unwanted interest that would have appeared if the world had known this was a Ford test of its next-generation aluminum pickup.
Meanwhile, Dianne Craig, Ford of Canada president CEO dismissed any notion that an aluminum pickup, one with a 700-pound weight loss compared to the current one, might feel flimsy.
“Are you crazy!” she said, insisting this 2015 F-truck will feel as rugged as the current one, if not more so.
And it will drive with a nimbleness not seen in a pickup ever before, added Hinrichs.
As the F-Series goes, so go Ford’s profits. You can imagine how invested these executives are in getting this launch right.
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