Ford plans staggered launch of new F-150 at 2 plants

DETROIT -- Ford Motor Co. will begin production of the 2015 F-150 in the fourth quarter at the Dearborn Assembly Plant. Production of the existing 2014 F-150 will continue through the year until the first quarter next year at Ford's plant in Kansas City, Mo.

"We're going to stagger the launch," said Mark Fields, Ford COO.

Ford executives said they are on time with the launch of the F-150 in spite of extensive changeovers the company must make in its factories as the company switches from the current truck, which is predominantly steel, to the new model, which is predominantly aluminum. The launch is staggered so Ford can ensure a constant supply of trucks.

Ford did not announce pricing for the redesigned 2015 truck, which Ford unveiled to much fanfare at Detroit's Joe Louis Arena this morning. But Doug Scott, Ford truck marketing manager, said prices would fall in the same range as the current F-150: roughly between $24,500 and $55,000.

Some analysts had speculated that Ford would have to increase its prices because of the switch to aluminum. Ford is switching to aluminum to save weight and improve on mpg. The company said the new truck will be up to 700 pounds lighter than the current version, depending on the model.

Scott said the current truck is about 5 percent aluminum while the new truck is about 95 percent. The new truck has an aluminum body, aluminum doors, and an aluminum hood. The ladder frame is made of steel, just as it is on the current truck.

Joe Hinrichs, Ford president of the Americas, said Ford must make modifications in its factories to handle aluminum. The alloys Ford is using are a thicker gauge than the steel used in the current truck.

"No one has ever done aluminum at this volume," he said. "We're taking all the precautions to make sure this is done successfully."

Ford officials said the new truck went through 10 million miles of testing to ensure durability. Raj Nair, Ford head of global product development, said Ford realized it could "improve dent resistance" using aluminum instead of steel.

Nair said Ford dealers would "expand the capability of their shops" at dealerships to handle aluminum.

He also said the F-150 program could lead to higher penetration of aluminum and other lightweight materials throughout Ford's product fleet.

You can reach Bradford Wernle at bwernle@autonews.com

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