The next generation of the Ford F-150 pickup truck series expected in 2014 (as a 2015MY) may very well feature an aluminum-intensive body, The Wall Street Journal reported citing sources from within the Detroit-based automaker.
The reason why the Blue Oval is exploring the idea is to reduce the truck's weight and improve its fuel economy as the company ramps up its efforts to meet the Obama administration's new car mileage goal of 54.5mpg (4.3 lt/100km) on average by 2025.
The report says Ford is aiming to save about 700 pounds (318kg) or roughly a 15 percent reduction in weight over the current F-150. The weight savings will also allow Ford to use smaller engines that can further boost fuel economy.
An executive familiar with the plans told the news site that the move on the F-150 would equate to roughly a 25 percent improvement in fuel economy.
A Ford insider pointed out that aluminum would only be used on the body and perhaps certain parts of the suspension, but not the frame that will remain as is, since it needs to be extra rigid to handle payloads.
In addition, WSJ said that only the F-150 would use an aluminum-intensive body as the larger F-250 and other Ford heavy trucks don't fall under the new fuel-economy regulations.
Switching from metal to aluminum for all or most parts of the body will come at a cost – about $1,500 extra, according to Richard Schultz, managing director of metals at consulting firm Ducker Worldwide.
Besides the increased cost, Ford will also have to convince traditional buyers that aluminum is as tough as steel, something that is far easier to do in the passenger car segment.
"There is going to be a certain percentage of the people that will bitch and complain, but they will ultimately get that vehicle," Mike Shaw, a dealer of Chevrolet, GMC and Ford vehicles in Colorado told WSJ. "They may hold off for a little and keep their old ones longer. Then they will buy a new one."
To compensate for the possible reactions to the aluminum body, Ford may give the next F-150 a tougher and more muscular design.
The report also mentions that GM has carved up a different strategy that includes the presentation of a regular body replacement for the Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra full-size pickup trucks with more fuel-efficient engines and transmissions, and the introduction of a smaller size truck, the Colorado, with about 20 percent better gas mileage.
[Note: 2013 Ford F-150 in Photo and Video]