Ford's restyled and re-engineered 2009 F-150 pickup is going back to its roots as a work truck.
With high fuel prices deflating sales of pickups for personal use, Ford will emphasize best-in-class towing of 11,300 pounds and best-in-class payload capacity of 3,030 pounds in advertising that begins next month.
The messages will be directed at tradesmen, contractors, farmers and others whose livelihood requires a big pickup. "We know that those core truckers are people who are dependent on and need capability," says Doug Scott, Ford brand truck marketing manager.
Core buyers represent about 49 percent of Ford's pickup sales this year, up from 32 percent in 2003.
The basics: The F-150's frame has been re-engineered to boost payload and towing capacity. High-strength steel provides 10 percent more rigidity and cuts 100 pounds of weight. Ford says the frame also helps cut road noise and vibration 5 percent.
Ford claims an 8 percent average improvement in fuel economy for all 2009 F-150 models. Part of that increase is due to the addition of a six-speed automatic transmission, which is available with two V-8 engines.
Another contributor is the Superior Fuel Economy package, which targets such areas as axle ratio, tires and aerodynamics. It is available on two-wheel-drive XL and XLT models, resulting in 15 mpg city/21 highway.
Six airbags are standard, as is stability control, roll stability control and trailer sway control. Much of the sheet metal is new and more aerodynamic, another factor boosting fuel economy.
On the inside, Ford reworked the instrument panel, interior trim and seats. Previous F-150 owners complained about the seats. "You were sitting on it rather than sitting in it. That was a major focus," says Scott. "We spent a lot of time working on comfort and lateral support. Different seat frame, different cushions."