Ford will use military-grade aluminum shielding borrowed from a US army supplier to launch the new F-150 truck with a suitably butch halo, insiders claim, bringing the much anticipated aluminum-bodied vehicle to the North American International Auto Show next month. The new F-150, expected to borrow heavily from the design of Ford's Atlas Concept truck earlier this year, will mark a switch from the steel body of the best-selling outgoing model to lighter materials in the new version, with the car company said to be pre-emptively working to dismiss suggestions that aluminum is flimsy or weak.
Part of that is posing the new F-150 in a suitably macho scene, insiders familiar with Ford's NAIAS plans tell Bloomberg. The car company has supposedly borrowed battlefield-fit aluminum blast shielding from specialist Alcoa Inc. to dress its stand, emphasizing the fact that rather than being the flimsy material used for beer cans and takeaway containers, the metal is good enough to protect the armed forces from explosives and artillery.
The switch to aluminum is said to be one of a number of significant changes to the F-150 in its new generation, as Ford tries to bring the truck up to speed with the rest of the car segment. As well as trimming weight with the new metal, Ford is expected to introduce a new, smaller, and more efficient engine than it has previously offered in the range.
Ford Atlas Concept eyes-on:
That's tipped to be a 2.7-liter EcoBoost powerplant, helping Ford work toward a roughly 30mpg highway economy rating along with aiding the brand's fleetwide average; the US government has set down targets of 54.5mpg for car manufacturers' ranges as a whole by 2025.
Ford had already crowed that the switch to turbocharged EcoBoost engines saved more than 45m gallons of fuel worldwide. Meanwhile, the company has been collaborating on a new 10-speed transmission with GM that's also rumored to show up in the F-150. Another possibility is the hybrid truck system co-developed with Toyota.
Ford management's collective fear, however, is that the traditional audience for the F-150 may react negatively to a more economical, aluminum-bodied truck. That could mean a slow initial rate of adoption for the new version, particularly challenging considering the investment in time, manpower, and new equipment Ford supposedly requires for its new F-150 production lines.
One of the ways Ford is expected to address that, beyond drawing parallels between aluminum and military uses, is by making the new F-150's styling more aggressive. According to insiders familiar with the design of the new truck, it borrows heavily from the Atlas concept, including the oversized elements that gave it a Tonka-toy chunkiness.
Industry analysts predict Ford will begin sales of the new F-150 in the latter half of 2014.