When you're billing your new truck as the toughest ever, you sometimes need outside help to make sure that's actually the case, but the specialists Ford called in to test the ruggedization of the new 2015 F-150 are more unusual than most. After drivers of some of the decade-old F-150 trucks reported wear on the leather seats, Ford called in some offensive linemen-sized guys and caked them with a magic recipe of dust to rub across the new model's cabin, all in the name of teaching a robot.
The dust is known as "Arizona Dust" because it comes from the Salt River Valley in Arizona. It's notable, Ford says, because it contains some particularly fine particles that do a rough job on the leather over time.
To keep things realistic, Ford made the testers cake their jeans with the mud and then get in and out of the 2015 F-150 10,000 each over the course of several days. A little extra dust was added to the seats, too, just to really put the leather through its paces.
Ford won't be keeping a football-team's worth of big guys on retainer to do the testing moving forward, however. The company used the patterns of wear - which previously it couldn't replicate - to teach a new robotic testing rig how to do it too.
There's plenty riding on the new F-150, not least the truck's long-earned reputation. Ford has switched to aluminum-alloy for the body, and is taking no chances with the perception of what impact that might have on ruggedness.