Ford Motor Co. went to unusual lengths to ensure that the seats in its 2015 F-150 pickups, which go on sale this fall, were durable enough to handle the daily demands of heavyset drivers.
Last summer, Ford assigned about a dozen men weighing between 265 and 275 pounds to work as many as 10 hours a day climbing into and out of the driver's seat of a 2015 F-150, a Ford spokesman said. The testers were to enter and exit the trucks at least 10,000 times in the course of a week.
Human testers were used instead of robots in order to replicate actual wear and tear, the spokesman said.
The testers were required to wear the same pair of jeans, and the seats were sprinkled with Arizona fine dust, a commercially available material used to simulate the consistency of dirt, the spokesman said.
The testers were hired by Motor City Solutions, a suburban Detroit company that handles a variety of automotive engineering, event management and verification services, and were paid about $60-$70 a day.
As a result of the tests, the aluminum-bodied 2015 F-150 has front seats made of higher-strength steel and more durable leather that weigh 30 pounds less than the current F-150's seats, but still offer the durability needed to accommodate hefty drivers, the spokesman said.
The Detroit News reported the story earlier this week.
Last month, Ford said its 2015 F-150 shed as much as 700 pounds from the current F-150, yielding improvements in fuel economy, performance and capability.
Meanwhile, General Motors is working toward a largely aluminum-bodied pickup slated for a late 2018 release, The Wall Street Journal reported.