2014 DETROIT AUTO SHOW

Smack down, gutsy and moonshots: What people are saying about Ford's new F-150

The 2015 F-150, unveiled this week at the Detroit auto show, is expected to go on sale late this year. How Ford executes the complicated launch of the most-profitable vehicle in its lineup will be closely watched by rivals.

Photo credit: BLOOMBERG
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Everyone seems to agree that Ford Motor Co. has done nothing less than reinvent the modern pickup with the 2015 Ford F-150. But it remains to be seen what the redesigned truck, built primarily out of aluminum sheet metal, means for the company and auto industry, on a number of fronts, over the long run. A roundup of what journalists, analysts, Ford rivals and others are saying about the reforged 2015 F-150:

"The boys from Dearborn rolled into the Detroit Auto Show with an all-new F-150 that cribs heavily from sports cars, econoboxes, and consumer electronics to create the first truly modern pickup."

-- Damon Lavrinc, Wired

"While the F-150 has long been competitive in CR's tests, the current version got outclassed by the latest Ram and Silverado. So while both Ram and GM followed evolutionary steps, Ford went for a moonshot redesign. Ford claims they put over 10 million miles in developing this new F-Series. We'll put considerably fewer miles when we buy ours to see how it stacks up. With the frequency our staff checks out test trucks for hauling errands, we're always eager for another hauler to join our test fleet. Time for another truck test smack down."

-- Consumer Reports

"The much-anticipated switch in materials -- an investment of billions of dollars by Ford in factory updates, production tooling and engineering expertise -- is a breakthrough in scale and a first for pickups. It is aimed at drastically reducing the F-150's weight to improve fuel economy. Despite aluminum's widespread use in heavy-truck cabs and in military vehicles, aircraft and warships -- where its combination of strength, durability, weight savings and corrosion resistance is paramount -- there are still critics among pickup customers who equate the light metal with beer-can flimsiness. But engineers say that a stamped-aluminum body can equal or even outperform steel in overall strength, dent resistance and crash protection, depending on the material used, its thickness and how the structure is designed and assembled. There are challenges: While it will probably be months before the 2015 prices are announced, industry experts say that the use of aluminum will raise the cost of producing F-150s by several hundred dollars."

-- Lindsay Brooke, in The New York Times

"Low gas prices. High alum costs. F150 is biggest risk of Detroit show."

-- Detroit News auto critic Henry Payne in a Twitter posting

"Technically, producing this vehicle out of aluminum in the volume that it needs to be and to hit the cost part is a huge challenge that Ford Motor Co. has taken on. I applaud them; I salute them. It's a gutsy call. I'm confident ultimately they will succeed, because they have no choice. But the journey to get from where they are to producing this thing in the volume that they need is going to be quite a story."

-- AutoNation CEO Mike Jackson

"We've looked at it, but right now I can't make the weight to cost benefit analysis to work. But it may be my fault."

-- Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne, in an interview with the Associated Press

"Considering Ford is replacing a truck selling in the 760,000-a-year range, and considering Ford's F-150 has been the country's best seller for decades, a new F-150 was an easy choice for Most Significant. There also happens to be big news here: The body is 95 percent high-strength aluminum and the frame is 77 percent high-strength steel. Depending on what model you order, the weight savings over the outgoing truck can be as much as 700 pounds. Four engines are on offer; three are familiar, the fourth a surprise. The 2.7-liter EcoBoost maximizes economy, and debuts with a stop/start system. Ford didn't reveal power or torque numbers yet, but they should be impressive."

-- The editors of Autoweek

"Anytime you make a change with that vehicle, it's got to be well thought out, because you are really playing with the crown jewels of that company. They wouldn't roll the dice on this if they felt it wasn't going to work."

-- Michael Robinet, managing director of IHS's automotive group, in an interview with the Associated Press

"Too conservative? Well, it's worth noting that the 2014 model redesigns of the F-150's primary competitors, the Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra, walked just as safe a line -- too safe, some have said -- and as the Toyota Tundra and Nissan Titan have demonstrated, radical rethinking of full-size pickup styling is seldom met with high sales."

-- Steve Siler, in the New York Daily News

In December, Ford cut its profit forecast for 2014 to $7 billion to $8 billion, citing new-model launches this year -- 23 globally vs. 11 in 2013 -- including the new F-150.

Photo credit: BLOOMBERG

"This bold redo of the longtime best-selling vehicle in the U.S. market looks packed with innovation -- ranging from an even smaller turbocharged V-6 option, to LED headlamps and side spotlights, high-power outlets, and some industry-first truck applications of active-safety technology like blind-spot system and inflatable rear seat belts."

-- Bengt Halvorson, HighGearMedia.com

"It isn't hugely different from before -- Ford knows better than to mess too much with the formula which has kept it at the top of sales charts for years -- but the new grille, unique divided headlights, and familiar proportions should appeal to new and old buyers alike."

-- Antony Ingram, in the Christian Science Monitor

"The F-150's styling also breaks new ground. Rather than the flat nose common to most pickups, its nose and grille project a couple of inches forward of the front corners, for a striking and aerodynamic design that recalls the old Streamliner locomotives. The tailgate also features subtle styling elements that double as aerodynamic features. All the exterior lights are LEDs, ensuring a distinctive look at night."

-- Mark Phelan, in the Detroit Free Press

"Those buying 2014 F-150s are going to be as upset -- the refinements and advancements between the next model year is significant enough to make you not want to take the 'old' model. Ford is playing smart with the 2015 F-150. Offering two EcoBoost engine options gives them a performance edge over both GM and Ram Truck in both the small-displacement power and MPG battle. While Ram and GM pickups seem to be getting heavier, Ford jumped on the automotive Weight Watcher diet by shunning steel."

-- Bruce W. Smith, senior editor of Hard Working Trucks, Equipment World and Total Landscape Care, in the Los Angeles Times
 

"If they change the atmosphere out there so the body shops are ready to paint aluminum and work with aluminum, maybe your next Hyundai might be an aluminum body too."

-- Jake Fisher, head of auto testing at Consumer Reports, to NPR

"Ford's not an aluminum virgin. It did much of the development work that allowed Jaguar and Land Rover -- then owned by Ford -- to build their aluminum-bodied vehicles and aluminium panels. Jaguar says the 2004 XJ was its first all-aluminum model. Yet some analysts on Wall Street aren't confident the launch will go smoothly, precisely because of aluminum's peculiarities."

-- James R. Healey of USA Today
 

"The way that U.S. fuel economy regulations are now written, each size of a vehicle has different fuel economy targets that rise each year through 2025. Still, the new rules set a target for rising fuel economy for the corporation that factors in the types of vehicles that a car maker is selling. On this basis, because Ford sells so many trucks, the 2015 truck will help Ford exceed the corporate average, instead of weighing it down, as it has in the past."

-- Mike Ramsey of The Wall Street Journal

You can reach David Phillips at dphillips@crain.com.


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