Ford F-150 engineer says some ideas were too much to execute

The new F-150 drew crowds at the Detroit auto show in January.

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DETROIT – In Ford Motor Co.’s five-year effort to strip weight from the 2015 F-150 pickup, some ideas were considered just too big of a stretch, chief engineer Pete Reyes said today.

For example, engineers had considered using a front-frame crossmember -- which provides rigidity and lateral strength -- made of magnesium, an expensive metal that is lighter and stronger than either aluminum or steel.

The 2015 F-150 is expected to reach U.S. dealer lots late this year. The entire Ford U.S. dealer network is preparing to sell and service the new trucks.

Speaking at an industry gathering near Ford headquarters today, Reyes said designers ultimately chose a high-strength steel crossmember that was far less expensive.

Designers also chose a traditional steel rim for the spare tire over an optional aluminum rim spare that Ford had been considering, Reyes said. One thing that wasn’t considered: eliminating the spare entirely. “Our F-150 customers wouldn’t stand for that,” Reyes said.

Ford also increased the thickness of the aluminum used in the 2015 F-150’s bed floor by almost 50 percent after conducting testing with three unsuspecting commercial fleet customers.

Like an old Folgers Coffee commercial, Ford secretly replaced the steel beds on six current generation F-150s with the aluminum beds that were planned for the 2015 pickup. A mining company, a construction company and a utility company in different parts of the country each received two of the modified pickups to test.

Ford engineers said that after seeing the “huge” tools and loads that were thrown into the bed, they chose to increase the gauge of the rolled aluminum used there from .95 millimeters to 1.4 millimeters.

You can reach Larry P. Vellequette at lvellequette@crain.com.


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