Higher fuel mileage and lower fuel cost is the main draw of the aluminum body F-150.
The Ford F-150 pickup truck is not only the most important product the company produces, it is one of the most important vehicles ever created in America, at least in the eyes of its millions of owners, who love it for its reliability and functionality.
Last week, Ford took a huge gamble in the production of the 2015 F-150 by replacing its steel body with an aluminum one, reducing the truck’s weight, and with it its fuel cost.
What Ford F-150 fans want to know is if it also reduced any of the truck’s most important features, most notably its sturdiness.
The truck has been in the works since 2009, and the first of its type rolled off the assembly line in early November. It still has a high-strength steel frame, but its aluminum body will change the feel of the truck, both outside and inside.
Because of the aluminum body, the truck is put together with high-strength adhesives and laser welding instead of spot welds used in steel construction. That will require retraining of licensed mechanics for purposes of body repair.
In response, some Ford dealers purchased additional 2014 model F-150s, thinking the consumer might have difficulty making the adjustment to the lighter truck.
“There will be some people who won’t want to change for a while,’’ said Russell Barnett, a Ford dealer in Winchester, Tenn., to the Associated Press.
Besides being lighter, aluminum is more expensive than steel, which could make repairs more costly. However, Ford is reportedly watching the F-150’s immediate future with plans to create aluminum body cars, including the Mustang.
The Ford F-150 has been the most popular truck in America for 32 years. In 2013, Ford sold almost 100,000 more trucks than General Motors. It is estimated the F-150 makes up about 90 percent of Ford’s global profit.
This is not the first vehicle made out of aluminum in the United States, but it by far the most visible and popular. Ford produced almost 650,000 F-150s at its two production plants in the United States last year.
Ford will announce the truck’s fuel economy figures next month, before it becomes available to the consumer. The company hopes the fuel economy will sway very loyal truck buyers to switch from Chevy Silverado or the Dodge Ram.
“These vehicles are not just vehicles to our customers,’’ said Ford CEO Mark Fields. “They are tools to help them do their job. This thing has to deliver.”
“We don’t look back,’’ said Ford program management analyst Alana Strager. “We look forward. This is an amazing vehicle.”
Kent McDill is a staff writer for Millionaire Corner. McDill spent 30 years as a sports writer, working for United Press International and the Daily Herald of Arlington Heights, Ill. From 1988-1999, he covered the Chicago Bulls for the Daily Herald, traveling with them every day through the nine-month season. He also covered the Bulls for UPI from 1985-88, and currently covers the team for www.nba.com. He has written two books on the Bulls, including the new title “100 Things Bulls Fans Should Know And Do Before They Die’, published by Triumph Books. In August 2013, his new book “100 Things Bears Fans Should Know And Do Before They Die” gets published.
In 2008, he resigned from the Herald and became a freelance writer. The Herald hired him to write business features and speeches for the Daily Herald Business Conferences and Awards presentations.
McDill also writes a monthly parenting column for the Herald’s Suburban Parent magazine.
McDill is the father of four children, and an active fan of soccer, Jimmy Buffett and all things Disney.