UPDATED: 8/14/14 9:49 am ET - adds photo
DETROIT -- Ford Motor Co. today demonstrated its “seamless sliding rear window” feature developed by Canadian supplier Magna International Inc. for the new 2015 Ford F-150 pickups.
The current sliding glass rear windows, optional on many pickups, require three panes of glass and an elaborate support structure of plastic frames and sealing material that’s complex to assemble and vulnerable to quality glitches and leakage.
When Ford started designing its next-generation Ford F-150 in 2010, the company staged a design contest to come up with a better solution. One supplier emerged the clear winner -- Magna.
The company, based near Toronto, came up with a technology it refers to as “hole in glass” that resulted in the 2015 F-150’s “seamless sliding rear window.”
Lighter, easier to install
The new rear window has several advantages: it’s about 4.5 percent lighter, can be installed in one assembly line operation instead of several, gives the rear a streamlined look and provides continuous defrosting whether the window is open or not.
“Magna blew us away with their hole-in-glass technology that allowed us to get a flush, seamless look” for the rear window, said Noah Mass, Ford body exterior mechanisms manager.
Magna worked with its Tier 2 supplier, Pittsburgh Glass Works, to develop a technique for cutting a hole in the window using high-pressure water jets.
The technique is expensive, so Magna needed a high-volume vehicle program to amortize the cost, said Troy Tooker, Magna design engineering manager.
Ford will offer the seamless sliding rear window on XL and XLT versions of the F-150 as a $300 option for Supercab and SuperCrew models. It will not be offered on Regular Cab models. It will be standard on the Lariat, King Ranch and Platinum models. About 25 percent of customers opt for the sliding glass panel on the current F-150, and the company expects the new seamless window will increase that number to 40 percent on the new truck.
The 2015 F-150 is due in dealerships near the end of this year.
Ford also is using the technology for pop-out windows on the new Ford Transit commercial van.
Tooker said Magna has several patents on the technology. One key patent is on the rear-window defroster, which operates continuously. Unlike the sliding rear window on the current truck, which loses the defrost function if the window is open slightly, the movable panel defrosts regardless of whether it’s open or closed, he said.
The new window assembly weighs 20.74 pounds, down from 21.73 pounds on the current version, for about a 4.5 percent reduction in weight. That may sound small, but Tooker said Ford asked Magna to look for every possible opportunity to trim weight.
The new F-150 will be up to 700 pounds lighter than the current F-150, largely because the steel body is being replaced by aluminum.
Tooker said Magna was besieged by inquiries from other carmakers when it first showed the seamless rear window at the F-150’s world debut in January at the Detroit auto show.
The technology is not licensed exclusively to Ford, so Magna can sell it to other customers, he said. But he emphasized that Ford has always been a leader in trucks.
Ford and Magna both said they are exploring other applications for the technology.