Ford will launch an all-new F-Series at the upcoming 2014 Detroit Auto Show in January, with the truck’s most important feature to be its aluminum frame, according to a Bloomberg News report citing people familiar with the Blue Oval’s plans.
The carmaker is said to have asked Alcoa Inc., which produces aluminum blast shields for military vehicles, to lend some of its military-grade metal for the automaker’s display. That’s because Ford wants to demonstrate the toughness of aluminum to pickup buyers, along with its lightweight advantage – the next F-150 is projected to be as much as 340 kg (750 lbs) lighter than the current model.
Ford’s decision to use an aluminum platform for the F-150 will help it meet rising fuel-economy standards in the U.S., which require a fleet-wide average of 54.5 mpg (4.3 l/100 km) by 2025. The upcoming F-150 will average close to 30 mpg (7.8 l/100 km), up from 23 mpg (10.2 l/100 km) in the current F-150’s top-rated model.
The improvements in efficiency will be due to a new 2.7-liter EcoBoost engine (part of a family of powertrains that Ford has code-named Nano), as well as a new 10-speed transmission and light-duty truck hybrid systems.
Ford’s move also involves risks, as switching to aluminum will require fundamental changes to how truck bodies make their way down the assembly line. According to IHS Automotive, Ford will need to take about six weeks of downtime at each of its truck plants to retool and swap out robots and machinery.
The report said Ford has already begun building prototypes of the model that will debut in Detroit, with the F-150 estimated to go on sale in the second half of 2014. The design of the next-generation F-150 will be inspired by the Atlas concept, unveiled this year at the Detroit Auto Show.
By Dan Mihalascu