Ford has built its first aluminum-body 2015 F-150 pickup truck, and production of the vehicle is now underway at the 100-year-old Ford Rouge Center in Dearborn, Mich., an event marked by the appearance of Bill Ford and other dignitaries.
Ford plans to deliver the 2015 F-150 to dealers in December in the U.S. It will go on sale in 90 global markets in 2015. Fleets with special orders will get their trucks in February.
The start of production was marked with a media event, which was presided over by Bill Ford, Ford’s executive chairman and great-grandson of company founder Henry Ford. The Nov. 11 event attended by Work Truck drew hundreds of employees, senior executives, and local political leaders. Ford described the Rouge plant as “the heart of Ford, and the F-150 is the centerpiece of Rouge.”
Enthusiasm was high from executives and employees alike, when Plant Manager Brad Huff and Jimmy Settles, the plant’s UAW leader, drove the first aluminum F-150 off the assembly line.
Much has been made of Ford's gamble to revamp its top-selling vehicle, and the nation's top-selling truck for nearly four decades, with an aluminum body that reduces weight by about 700 pounds. Yet early driving impressions have been favorable, and the move is expected to significantly improve fuel economy.
When asked later about the risks of using aluminum in the body in the F-150, Ford said, “Yes, it’s a risk, but it’s a risk worth taking. You can tell the difference in the handling and performance.”
Ford noted that the use aluminum, a sustainable material, is also part of a Ford Motors tradition. Ford related how his great-grandfather reused the wood from the packing crates for the raw steel used in the early vehicles for running boards and other wooden parts.
Ford has lightened the weight of the truck and increased its capabilities over the 2014 model. The 2015 F-150 can tow up to 1,100 more pounds and haul up to 530 more pounds in payload, according to Ford.
Truck Communications Manager Mike Levine echoed Ford by noting that “the all-new F-150 is the best F-150 we’ve ever made. It’s tougher, more capable, and more efficient.”
For instance, the aluminum alloy is more dent and ding resistant and if paint is chipped away, it will not form red rust. Even in these days of falling fuel prices, fleets will be able to improve mpg by 5 to 20 percent, according to Levine.
Fleet interest in the new F-150 is high, according to Levine. But, beyond delivering power, efficiency, and capability, the transformation of both the Rouge plant and the F-150 speaks to a more fundamental success.
“This transformation shows the strength of the 1 Ford Plan,” said CEO Mark Fields during the launch ceremony.
Prices will rise modestly for the 2015-MY F-150 by at least $395 and as much as $3,615 depending on the model.
The all-new iteration of the 60-year-old truck is the result of a $359 million retooling of the Dearborn Truck Plant, which will also be built at the Kansas City Assembly Plant starting in early 2015.
By Chris Wolski