SAN ANTONIO -- Pete Reyes, chief program engineer for the 2015 Ford F-150 pickup, is as excited as a child on Christmas morning. He finally got to introduce his baby to journalists last week at a media launch here.
“I’m telling you it’s been a long time. I’ve waited the last four and a half years to show you this truck,” an ebullient Reyes told journalists.
This is no garden variety redesign. It’s the first mass market pickup with a body made of lightweight aluminum alloys, what Ford likes to call “military grade.”
The F series is the top-selling U.S. light vehicle. Because of the switch from steel to aluminum, the 2015 F-150 is one of the most highly anticipated vehicles in recent memory. Ford says the switch will save up to 700 pounds compared with the outgoing steel-bodied F-150.
Reyes, 51, spent most of his 28-year Ford career working on trucks. He knows cars, too. From 2007 to 2010, he was chief engineer on the Taurus. He spoke with Automotive News Staff Reporter Bradford Wernle.
Where have you worked at Ford?
I grew up in chassis and vehicle engineering. I spent the majority of my career on Super Duty. I started on this program in February of 2010.
You indicate the discussion on the new F-150 starts with the weight Ford saved by switching from steel to aluminum.
Weight savings for a truck makes a lot of sense. When you weight save for a vehicle like a truck, which is a tool, you can reinvest that weight into doing more work. That’s why we did it here.
The new truck also challenges the thinking that bigger and heavier means more power and capability.
When an athlete loses weight, you can walk upstairs quicker. For years we’ve lived in a power world where you need bigger horsepower, bigger transmission, bigger rear axle. When you take weight out, it doesn’t matter what powertrain we have. We have improved the power-to-weight ratio 5 to 16 percent. That 5 percent represents the base engine. It was 3.7 and we’ve downsized it to 3.5. The proof is we can now put the base engine in crew cab 4x4s, which fleet customers love. Power-to-weight ratio is the new game.
What are you proudest of on the new F-150?
I’m most excited about an architecture change, that we made such a big shift in materials. It sets us up for the next 15 years.
I’m excited about BoxLink [a storage management system consisting of brackets and interchangeable cleats mounted at four points in the bed]. You can tie more stuff down. We added structure and assembly stations for that. If I did not do that on this truck, it wouldn’t have happened for another 10 years. I love the spotlights. Our customers said: “I want a spotlight like the police have.”
What about the 360-degree camera view?
It’s a first for us, stitching all those views together.
There are a lot of high-tech features in this truck.
We bit off a lot of technology. At one point I thought it was more than we could chew.
What did the F-150 program cost?
We don’t talk about our costs. One thing helps us. When you sell 600,000 F series a year, the industry accounting is pretty standard. When you multiply 600,000 by five-six-seven years and you multiply that out, whatever I spend will always be less of a burden on higher volume.
What do you do in your spare time?
My wife is a personal trainer, so she has me working out. And I play ice hockey in an old-man’s league.
Where did you grow up?
My family moved to South America. We lived in Caracas, Venezuela, and I went to high school there.