Ford's Nair: Lighter F-150 boosts capability as well as fuel economy

Nair: Better ride dynamics, braking and acceleration

DETROIT -- Ford's move to reduce weight in the F-150 full-sized pickup targets more than higher fuel economy, says Raj Nair, Ford Motor Co. group vice president of global product development. The lightweight body also increases the truck's capability. Nair spoke with Staff Reporter Richard Truett today after the all-aluminum 2015 F-150 was revealed at the North American International Auto Show.

Q: You've said the new truck weighs about 700 pounds less than the 2014 F-150. How does that affect fuel economy?

A: It is a significant increase. We have not certified any numbers yet. But it is more than just the fuel economy. It's the capability. When you take that much weight out, you can reinvest that into capability -- increases in payload, increases in towing, better ride dynamics, better braking, better acceleration. And so it is also very much a capability story. When we switch over to these advanced materials, we will be able to do different things with engineering the crush zones, and the dent and corrosion resistance is actually higher than with the steel body. So it is not just a fuel economy story. If anything, it is a more capability story.

Does the aluminum F-150 require a new manufacturing system?

It's not a whole new manufacturing system. The hood on the current truck and the enclosures on many of our other vehicles are already made of aluminum. So we've got a lot of experience in high-volume aluminum manufacturing. Obviously, we did a lot of the advanced engineering work when Jaguar was part of the fold. And so we have a lot of experience.

Is it more labor-intensive to make aluminum bodies than steel bodies?

No. It is a different process, obviously. But it is one we are well versed in and quite confident in.

Does the paint shop have to be changed or can you use the existing infrastructure?

We can pretty much use the existing infrastructure because we are painting aluminum right now.

To increase fuel economy, wouldn't using a diesel engine have been easier than developing an aluminum body?

There are a couple of issues we saw with that approach. The price for diesel fuel is actually higher per gallon, so you are paying more for that. The cost of the diesel engine is significantly higher than the cost of a gas engine. And when you introduce diesel into an existing platform, you are not giving the customer an increase in capability. So by light-weighting the vehicle, you now give the customer the capability of towing more and hauling more. We obviously have diesels in the lineup, and diesels are great if you are going to be consistently towing heavy payloads. And we feel Super Duty trucks are a better solution for that customer.



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