DETROIT -- Ford Motor Co. is investing $500 million to build a new compact, lightweight turbocharged V-6 engine for the redesigned F-150 pickup at a plant in Lima, Ohio.
Ford introduced the 2.7-liter engine in January at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit along with the 2015 F-150.
The smaller V-6 engine should help the venerable F-150 close the fuel economy gap with Chrysler Group’s Ram 1500 EcoDiesel, which has a 3.0-liter diesel engine and an industry-best EPA rating of 28 mpg highway.
The most efficient Ford F-150 is rated at 23 mpg on the highway, 1 mpg highway behind General Motors’ Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra, which deliver 24 mpg highway.
The Detroit 3, which rely heavily on sales of high profit pickups, are investing heavily to increase truck fuel economy to 30.2 mpg by 2025 and meet new EPA fuel economy regulations.
Ford has not said how much power the new V-6 will generate, nor has it given any hints about what fuel economy it is expected to deliver.
Production of the new engine will begin in Lima in the fourth quarter to coincide with the 2015 F-150’s launch, Ford said in a statement today. It is adding 300 jobs at the Lima plant.
Ford will offer four engines in the 2015 F-150: the 2.7-liter turbo — the industry’s smallest displacement engine in a full-sized truck; a naturally aspirated 3.5-liter V-6; a 3.5-liter turbo engine and a naturally aspirated 5.0-liter V-8. All will be mated to six-speed automatic transmission.
Chrysler’s Ram offers an optional 8-speed automatic transmission, while GM’s trucks also come with six-speed automatic gearboxes.
The 2.7-liter engine is extremely compact and light. It features a cylinder block made of compacted graphite iron, and aluminum heads. It will come standard with start-stop, which helps save fuel in city driving, but won’t help the truck’s highway fuel economy.
Ford expects demand for the new V-6 to be strong. It said today that 57 percent of new customers in 2014 have selected a 3.7-liter V-6 or 3.5-liter V-6 EcoBoost in the F-150. That's the highest take rate for six-cylinder engines in a large pickup since 1967, the company says.
Retail registrations of light-duty pickups with V-6 engines have grown more than 600 percent since 2010, with the F-150 accounting for 91 percent of the growth, Ford says, citing Polk retail new vehicle registration data from IHS Automotive.
Ford says some models of the new aluminum-bodied F-150 will weigh as much as 700 pounds less than the outgoing steel-bodied 2014 model. The lower weight is expected to improve fuel economy two to three miles per gallon, according to one analyst.
Towing and hauling capability -- not fuel economy -- is likely to increase dramatically in the new truck. The lower weight will increase the truck’s capability, Ford officials have said.
“Our truck customers have spoken, and we continue to meet their evolving needs by providing another V-6 option in the all-new 2015 F-150,” Joe Hinrichs, Ford president of The Americas, said in the statement. “The hardworking team at Lima Engine is thrilled to begin building one of the most technologically advanced engines ever designed for America’s No. 1 truck.”
Ford markets its turbo car and truck engines under the EcoBoost brand name, which along with Chrysler’s Hemi and GM’s Ecotec, are some of the industry’s best known sub-brands.
The Lima plant opened in 1957 and produces Ford’s 3.5- and 3.7-liter V-6 engines. It currently employees 900 workers. Later this year, the 40-millionth engine produced at the plant will roll off the assembly line.