F-150 adds aluminum; Mustang goes global

Ford puts fresh spins on its classics

F-150 adds aluminum; Mustang goes global

2015 Ford Mustang
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Future Product Pipeline

The Ford brand has spent several years focusing on vehicles that struck at the heart of segments once dominated by imports: crossovers and mid-sized sedans.

For the 2015 model year, Ford is returning to its roots with redesigned versions of two crucial home-market mainstays: the F-150, Ford's best-selling and most profitable vehicle, and the Mustang pony car, the brand's image standard-bearer.

The redesigns are significant for different reasons. The F-150 gets an aluminum-intensive body and the Mustang targets buyers in global markets.

Ford has lots more on its plate, including a redesigned Edge crossover and a new commercial van, the Transit, replacing the E series.

Here is a look at the Ford brand's future product plans.

Ford says the aluminum-body 2015 Ford F-150 will be lighter, more capable and more fuel efficient than its predecessor.

Trucks


F-150: Ford shuts down its Dearborn truck plant near the end of August for one month to convert the operation to aluminum from steel. Ford officials say the run-up to the changeover is going smoothly.

Ford says the new truck will be lighter, more capable and more fuel efficient than the outgoing F-150, though final fuel economy ratings have not yet been issued.

Ford has announced pricing in its dealer order guide. The least expensive model is the two-wheel-drive XL regular cab that starts at $26,615, including shipping. That's a $395 increase over the equivalent steel-bodied 2014 model.

The King Ranch gets the biggest price increase, up $3,615 from the 2014 model. But six trucks are getting lower prices, ranging from a $110 cut for a four-wheel-drive XL Super Crew to a $1,570 reduction for that same truck with a different bed configuration. Some of the price cuts came about because Ford is using smaller engines. The truck's aluminum body and high-strength steel frame shave about 700 pounds off the F-150, so using a smaller engine won't affect towing, hauling or performance.

Six models will be gone for the 2015 lineup: the Tremor, Raptor, STX, FX2, FX4 and Limited.

On the horizon for the F-150 is a new 10-speed automatic transmission Ford developed and will share with General Motors in return for a nine-speed automatic for front-wheel-drive vehicles. The 10-speed will replace the current six-speed, possibly at the end of 2015 for the 2016 model year. Ford also is evaluating turbodiesels for the F-150.

Super Duty: For 2015, Ford beefed up its already muscular Super Duty pickups. The 6.7-liter Power Stroke diesel gets a boost to 440 hp in the 2015 model from 400 hp in the 2014 model and an increase in torque to 860 pounds-feet from 800. The power and torque increases come from a new, larger turbocharger that has been repositioned to improve efficiency. The result is increased towing capability and better engine braking on downhill grades along with reduced noise, vibration and harshness. Ford's most powerful pickup, the F-450, gets improved suspension components and stronger steering gears and linkages.

The big question on the minds of Super Duty fans: Will the next-generation Super Duty get an aluminum-intensive body? Industry experts say it's likely. In a detailed March report titled "Ford Aluminomics," CLSA analyst Emmanuel Rosner wrote: "The next generation Ford-250/350 Super Duty is scheduled to launch around February 2016 and will share the T3 platform to allow for economies of scale in purchasing, advanced manufacturing and build processes. It is likely to feature extensive commonality with the light-duty F-150 and apply mass-reduction lessons learned from it."

Transit: The commercial van, long a mainstay in Europe, went on sale this summer for the first time in North America, where it replaces the E series.

Transit Connect and Transit Connect Wagon: The Transit Connect cargo van and Transit Connect Wagon people mover were redesigned for 2014 and went on sale this year.

E series: The E series is being discontinued for 2015 except for certain commercial chassis cab and strip chassis versions that Ford continues to make for business customers.

The tiny Ford EcoSport crossover is likely to come to the United States in ’16 or ’17.

Crossovers and SUVs


Subcompact crossover: The tiny Eco-Sport, developed in Brazil on the Fiesta platform, has been a hit for Ford in markets as diverse as Latin America, India and China. Ford, anticipating worldwide growth in sales of crossovers and SUVs, is likely to bring its smallest crossover to the United States in 2016 or 2017. Because of Ford's use of the EcoBoost brand name for engines, the EcoSport is likely to get a different name in North America.

Escape: Ford's best-selling crossover was redesigned in 2012 for the 2013 model year. The compact crossover should get a freshening for the 2016 model year with a restyled grille and instrument cluster. The Escape is due for a redesign in late 2017 for the 2018 model year and is likely to get Ford's nine-speed automatic and the same 1.5-liter EcoBoost four-cylinder now in the Fusion.

The redesigned Ford Edge arrives in showrooms in early 2015.

Edge: The mid-sized crossover, introduced in 2006 as a 2007 model, gets a redesign for 2015. The new vehicle, arriving in dealerships in early 2015, will be more powerful and more aerodynamic than its predecessor.

Ford touts the Edge as a technology showcase. It will be the first Ford-branded vehicle offered with an adaptive steering system, a 180-degree front camera with a washer, an enhanced self-parking assist system that works for vertical and parallel parking, and a glove-box airbag. 

It also will be the first Ford to get a redesigned 2.0-liter EcoBoost engine with a twin-scroll turbocharger that optimizes camshaft design for reduced turbo lag and improved engine performance. It will be available in front- and all-wheel drive configurations. 

The new 2.0-liter EcoBoost is one of three engines to be offered. The others are a conventionally aspirated 3.5-liter Ti-VCT V-6 and a new 2.7-liter EcoBoost V-6. 

Explorer: Ford's seven-seat crossover gets minor changes for 2015, including an optional appearance package and four new colors. The Explorer, on a modified Volvo D4 platform, is due for a midcycle freshening next year that will include an improved interior and new front and rear fascias. The next redesign is due in 2017 for the 2018 model year when the Explorer should get a new nine-speed automatic transmission. The Explorer likely will migrate to Ford's global CD4 mid-sized platform.

Flex: The Flex crossover has been a hit in California, but has struggled elsewhere. Despite slow sales, company and union sources say the Flex will be around for at least a couple of more years -- and possibly longer.

Expedition: Ford's last truck-based SUV gets its first re-engineering since the 2007 model year. The 2015 Expedition, due in dealerships in mid- to late September, will feature some of Ford's latest technology, including Sync with MyFord Touch and Blind Spot Information System with cross traffic alert. 

Ford also has replaced the 5.4-liter V-8 engine with an EcoBoost V-6, the same engine that has been a hit with F-150 customers. 

The Expedition will come in two wheelbase lengths -- 119 inches and 131 inches -- and four trim levels: XLT, Limited, King Ranch and top-of-the-line Platinum, new for 2015. 

Ford believes the Expedition's independent rear suspension gives it an advantage over its most direct competitors: the Chevrolet Suburban and Tahoe. The Expedition will be the first Ford-brand vehicle to be offered with continuously controlled damping, a feature that has been offered only on Lincoln vehicles until now. The system also will be offered on the Expedition's platform sibling: the 2015 Lincoln Navigator. 

The Expedition also gets Ford's electric power-assisted steering to improve steering feel at high speed and improve maneuverability at low speed. 

Like the Navigator, the Expedition is likely to migrate to an aluminum body for 2017.

Cars


Fiesta: The Fiesta and the Fiesta ST performance model were freshened for 2014 and are largely unchanged for 2015. Industry sources say Ford may shift Fiesta production to Thailand for its next major change in 2017.

Focus: The Focus compact gets Ford's global look including a restyled hood, grille and trunk lid with optional LED headlamps and taillamps for 2015. Under the hood, the Focus will be offered with Ford's 1.0-liter, three-cylinder EcoBoost engine combined with a six-speed manual transmission.

Focus will also be offered with some of Ford's latest driver-assist systems including a rearview camera, optional Blind Spot Information System with cross traffic alert and a lane-keeping system.

The 2015 Focus goes on sale in volume in early 2015. Ford has said the ST performance version continues in 2015 with updated suspension tuning and a redesigned center stack. Ford will continue the Focus Electric despite slow sales. The next-generation U.S. Focus, due in late 2017 as a 2018 model, will be compatible with Ford's small European diesels.

C-Max: The C-Max is largely unchanged for 2015. Ford has twice revised the vehicle's fuel economy figures downward, moves that have hurt sales. But Joe Hinrichs, Ford president of the Americas, has said the company will continue investing in the C-Max. It could get a freshening in 2016 and is due for a redesign for the 2018 model year. Ford, Daimler and Renault Nissan said last year that their fuel cell partnership could result in vehicles on sale as early as 2017. The C-Max would be a likely candidate for a Ford fuel cell vehicle.

Fusion: Ford's best-selling car in the United States gets minor changes for 2015, including a Terracotta package on the SE and Titanium models. Fusion styling will be freshened in the second half of 2016 as a 2017 model. The Fusion should be in line for Ford's new nine-speed automatic transmission later in the decade.

Taurus: Ford's biggest sedan is largely unchanged for 2015. The Taurus, last freshened in 2011 for the 2012 model year, still sits on the modified Volvo D3 platform. The next-generation Taurus would be due at the end of 2015 as a 2016 model, but slow sales have made the future uncertain beyond that. Ford could discontinue the Taurus and leave a long-wheelbase sedan based on the extended CD4 platform to Lincoln.

Mustang: The 2015 Mustang is the first version of the pony car made expressly for sale outside North America. The new Mustang is lower, wider and sleeker than its predecessor. With its new independent rear suspension, the 2015 Mustang is designed to be an affordable sports car that can go up against elite competitors such as the BMW M3 and Porsche 911 on the twisty roads of Europe and elsewhere.

The sixth-generation Mustang should begin trickling into U.S. dealerships at the end of September. For the United States, the Mustang will come with a choice of three engines: a 3.7-liter V-6 that generates 300 hp and 279 pounds-feet of torque, a 5.0-liter V-8 that cranks out 435 hp and 400 pounds-feet of torque, and a 2.3-liter EcoBoost four-cylinder that makes 310 hp and 320 pounds-feet of torque. Customers can choose between a six-speed manual and six-speed automatic.

The Mustang has been known more for brute horsepower than high tech, but that will change with the 2015 version, which will offer such features as Blind Spot Information System with cross traffic alert, adaptive cruise control and Sync AppLink, which allows drivers to link smartphone apps to entertainment sites.

The Mustang will come in two body styles: fastback and convertible.

There's no official word from Ford on when high-performance versions of the latest Mustang might appear. But enthusiast magazines have published spy photos of separate Mustang prototypes called the Shelby GT500 and GT350.

The Mustang eventually will get Ford's new 10-speed automatic transmission.

You can reach Bradford Wernle at bwernle@crain.com.


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