Search The Virtual Driver
Tagged for Your Convenience
1940 Ford Coupe 1961 F1 season 2012 Dodge Charger SRT8 2012 Ford Explorer 2012 Jeep Wrangler 2012 Toyota Camry 2012 VW Beetle 2012 VW Passat 2013 Chevys 2013 Ford Explorer 2013 Ford Focus Electric 2013 Ford Fusion review 2013 Hyundai Genesis Coupe 2013 Hyundai Sonata SE 2013 Hyundai Veloster Turbo 2013 Infiniti JX AWD 2013 Lexus ES 350 2013 Lexus GS 2013 Mercedes GLK350 2013 NAIAS 2013 Nissan Altima 2014 Audi R18 e-tron quattro 2014 Detroit Auto Show 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee 2014 Kia Forte 2014 Kia Soul road test 2014 Lexus IS 2014 Mazda CX-5 crossover 2014 Mazda3 2014 Mercedes S-Class 2014 Mitsubishi Mirage 2014 NAIAS 2014 Toyota Corolla 2014 Toyota Corolla S 2014 Toyota Highlander 2015 Camaro 2015 Chevy Trax 2015 Chrysler 200 2015 Detroit auto show 2015 Ford F-150 2015 Ford Mustang 2015 Hyundai Sonata 2015 Kia Sorento SX 2015 Lincoln Navigator 2015 Mini Cooper 2015 Mustang 2015 Nissan Murano 2015 Porsche Cayenne 2015 Toyota Camry 2016 24 Hours of Le Mans 2016 Chevy Camaro 2016 Chevy Volt 2016 Ford Explorer Platinum 2016 Honda Accord 2016 Honda Civic 2016 Hyundai Tucson 2016 Lexus RX 2016 NAIAS 2016 New York Auto Show 2016 Nissan Maxima 2016 North American International Auto Show 2016 Toyota Prius 2016 Toyota Prius unveiling 2016 Toyota RAV4 2016 Toyota Tacoma 2016 VW Golf SportWagen 2017 Acura NSX 2017 BMW 2 Series 2017 C-Class Coupe 2017 Ford GT 2017 Ford Raptor 2017 Subaru Impreza Achates Power Acura NSX adaptive cruise control affordable carbon fiber airbag technology Al Vinikour Alan Mulally Alfa Romeo Alfa Romeo 4C Alfa Romeo 4C Spider Alfa Romeo Giulia ALMS alternative powertrains AMG SLS E-Cell AP Racing Radi-CAL Apple Car ArmorAll AROnline Aston Martin Aston Martin DB11 Aston Martin Vulcan Aston Martin yacht Aston-Martin Atlanta Motorsport Park Audi Audi A3 Audi bicycle Audi Q7 TDI Audi R18 Audi R18 e-tron quattro Audi S8 Audi SQ7 Austin Powers Autocade automotive fuel cells automotive porn automotive safety systems autonomous cars Autorama Avocet Avro Vulcan barn find Beetle barn find Jaguar barn finds Battle of Britain Bell Pro Star Ben Bowlby Bentley Mulsanne Beverly Rae Kimes Big Bang Theory Bjorn Lomborg BMW BMW 2 Series Active Tourer BMW 3 Series BMW i3 BMW i8 BMW i8 luggage BMW M2 BMW M4 video BMW M4 vs. Lexus RC-F BMW motorcycles BMW X4 BMW1 Series Bob Lutz BorgWarner Breitling watches Brembo British Motor Heritage BRM Brose e-bike Bryce Hoffman Buick Regal GS Buick Verano Cadillac ATS Cadillac CT6 Cadillac CTS Cadillac CTS-V Cadillac CUE Cadillac Escalade Cadillac Racing Cadillac XT5 Cadillac XTS CAFE standards Camaro Z28 Camaro ZL1 Camping World Truck Series Car Spy book Carroll Shelby Cars in Context Television Cars in Context TV CART Caterham Caterham Seven Center for Automotive Research CES Chapparal 2X VGT comncept Chevy Bolt Chevy crate motor Chevy Cruze diesel Chevy Sonic Chevy Trax Chevy Volt Chicago Auto Show China Auto 2012 Chip Foose Chrysler Chrysler Hemi Clarion C-Max Hybrid CNG Cobra Jet Mustang Cobra watch Controlled Power Technologies cork surfboard Corvette C7 Corvette C8 Corvette Racing Corvette sinkhole Craftsman CTX tractors Dale Jr Dallara GP2 hillclimb Dan Gurney Dan Wheldon De Lorean Denise McCluggage Derek Warwick Detroit Auto Show Detroit Electric diesel engine Dieselgate Dodge Dodge Avenger Dodge Challenger Dodge Dart GT domestic energy Donald Trump donuts drag racing Dragon software DRB-Hicom Dream Cruise driver alert Ducati Ducati 899 Panigale Ducati Monster Ducati Museum Ducati Scrambler Ducati Testastretta Eagle GB Eagle Speedster Eddie Rickenbacker Edsel Ford electric bike electric vehicle demand electric vehicles EPA Evanta F-150 SuperCrew federal bureaucracy Federal-Mogul Ferdinand Piech Ferrari Ferrari 488 GTB Ferrari dog kennels Ferrari F12 Ferrari F12tdf FerrariGTC4Lusso FEV Fiat 124 Abarth Fiat 500 Abarth Fiat 500 furniture Fiat 500X Fiat Chrysler business plan Fiat S76 Fiat-Chrysler Ford Ford BoxLink Ford e-bikes Ford Edge Ford Explorer Sport Ford F-150 EcoBoost Ford F-150 Tremor Ford F-350 Ford Fiesta ST Ford Focus RS reveal Ford Focus ST Ford Fusion Ford GT Ford GT Mk. IV Ford Mustang Ford Mustang GT Ford Mustang GT350 Ford S-Max Ford Transit Ford Transit Connect Ford Transit Connect Titanium Formula One Formula One rules Forza Motorsport Fq hybrid braking Frankfurt Motor Show FR-S vs Miata Geneva Motor Show Global RallyCross GM GM engines GM recalls Goodwood Festival of Speed Google car ground effects Group Lotus HANS device Harley-Davidson Harley-Davidson Breakout Harley-Davidson LiveWire Harley-Davidson Seventy-Two Harley-Davidson SuperLow Harley-Davidson Switchback Haynes Owners' Workshop Manual healthcare Honda ATVs Honda Clarity FCV Honda endurance engine Honda motorcycles Honda NSX Honda Pilot Honda RA272 Honda RC213V-S HondaJet hot hatch Husqvarna hybrids Hyundai Hyundai Accent Hyundai designers Hyundai Elantra Hyundai Elantra GT Hyundai Genesis Hyundai Genesis Coupe Hyundai Motorstudio Hyundai Veloster Hyundai Vision G Coupe Indianapolis Motor Speedway Indy 500 IndyCar Infiniti Infiniti Q50 Infiniti QX56 inflatable child seat internal combustion engines iPhone 6 J.D. Power and Associates Jabuar Jaguar Jaguar C-X16 Jaguar E-Type Jaguar F-Type Jaguar luggage Jaguar XE Jaguar XJL Jeep Cherokee Jeep concepts Jeep Renegade Jensen GT jet prropulsion Jim Clark John Bereisa John Krafcik Juan Manuel Fangio Kia Forte Koup SX Kia Optima Kia Rio Kia Sorento Kia Soul L.A. Auto Show Lamborghini Lancia Delta Integrale Land Rover LR2 Land Rover pedal car Las Vegas Le Mans lead-acid batteries LED headlights Lego Technic book Lexus ES350 Lexus GS350 F Sport Lexus hoverboard Lexus LS Lexus LS concept Lexus LS460 LExus LX 570 Lexus NX 200t F Sport Lexus RC 350 Lexus RC F Lexus RX 450h Ligier LMP3 prototype Lincoln MKC Lincoln MKX Lincoln MKZ Lincoln Motor Company Lincoln Navigator L Lincoln's future Lingenfelter LiquidPiston Lister Knobbly Lola LMP1 Lotus Lotus Evora 400 Lotus Evora Sport 410 Lotus Exige Sport 350 Lotus SUV Luca Montezemolo Lucire Lyonheart K M1 Concourse magnesium wheels marble Ducati Martin Winterkorn Maserati Levante Maserati Tipo 250F replica matte-finish film Matthew McConaughey Mazda Mazda chair Mazda Miata Mazda Miata RF Mazda Miata versus Ford Fiesta ST Mazda2 Mazda6 MazdaPro series McLaren McLaren 570GT McLaren 675LT McLaren MP4-12C Spider McLaren P1 McLaren P1 interior Mercedes Mercedes 4Matic Mercedes CLA Mercedes comic book Mercedes diesel pistons Mercedes GL Mercedes GLA Mercedes GLE Coupe Mercedes pickup trucks Mercedes van Mercedes-AMG Mercedes-AMG GT Mercedes-Benz 300SLR recreation Mercedes-Benz E-Class Mercedes-Benz furniture metal matrix composite brakes MG wrist watch Michael Horn Michael Schumacher Mike Hawthorn Mini Mini Clubman Mini Clubman ALL4 Mini Cooper S 4-door Mini Countryman Mini Coupe Mini Roadster Mini Vision Mitsubishi Monterey Mopar shaker hood multi-modal transportation muscle cars Mustang hybrid MyFord Touch NAIAS nanoslide coating NASA Mustang NASCAR NASCAR heating scandal new Prius New Shelby GT350 New York Auto Show Niki Lauda Nissan BladeGlider Nissan Leaf Nissan Pathfinder Nissan Rogue Nissan Skyline history Nissan Smart mirror Nissan Versa Note Nnissan Quest Nurburgring OnStar FMV Opel GT Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance Peter Wright Peugeot 108 Pininfarina Pininfarina Coke machine Pocket Classics police chases Pope Benedict XVI Porsche 911 Porsche 911 Turbo Porsche 917 Porsche 918 Spyder Porsche 919 steering wheel Porsche 988 Porsche Cars North America Porsche Cayman Porsche P1 EV Porsche Panamera powertrain technology Prius c Prius v PSA Group Quixx racing Ram Ram 1500 Ram ProMaster Ram Promaster City Range Rover rebuildable batteries Renault Alpine Renault F1 engine Renault Talisman Renault Twingo restomod Ricardo Engineering Rnage Rover Evoque Convertible road repair funds Roger Penske Rolls Royce Bespoke Rolls Royce SUV Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost Ross Brawn Rush movie Saab safety technology Saleen S7 Sammy Hagar Santa SBU V3 Scion FR-S Scion iA and iM Scuderia Ferrari self-healing tires Sir Malcolm Campbell Siri smart spare tires Speed Speed Duel sport sedans Sportster Star Wars Steven Tyler Subaru BRZ Subaru Forester Subaru Impreza Suzuki GSX-R1000 Suzuki SX4 SYNC 3 tailgating Taurus SHO Team Lotus TechShop Tesla Model 3 The Aresenal of Democracy The Mitty Tokyo Motor Show torque vectoring touchpad technology Tour de France Toyota Toyota 4Runner Toyota hybrids Toyota iRoad Toyota Prius c Toyota Sienna Premium Toyota Tacoma Toyota Tundra Toyota Venza Toyota VenzaMcLaren MP4-12C Tracks novel Triumph Speed Triple TRW TRW touchpad TVR U.S. Air Force Museum UAW Udvar-Hazy Center Ulysses S. Grant unionization Uniroyal tires vaporware vehicle restoration Vehreo fabric Visteon Volkswagen Volvo Volvo 40 series concepts Volvo Drive-E Volvo S60 R-Design Volvo XC90 VW VW Beetle Convertible VW Beetle TDI VW Golf VW Golf SportWagen VW GTI VW Jetta GLI VW Jetta Hybrid VW MQB VW Passat TDI VW scandal VW Touareg TDI VW troubles winter driving Wirth Research Xcar video XPEL Yamaha Yamaha anime Yamaha sports car Zenos E10
« Super-silly-ous | Main | The E15 “Conspiracy” »

The Next F-150?

By Christopher A. Sawyer

The first look at the next F-150. But which F-150, a truck for everyone or a more focused offering?There has been a lot of talk about Ford’s next generation F-150, especially since the Wall Street Journal ran a story last year. In it the paper reported that the next F-150 would have an aluminum body on a steel frame, which drew denials from Ford. The upshot of the piece was that Ford, which has said on many occasions that its next generation of vehicles would be substantially lighter than the current generation, would have to use the lightweight alloy as it is the most cost-effective way to eliminate weight and improve fuel economy. And though it requires new equipment and some new techniques, stamping out parts or repairing them in the field is not dissimilar to working with steel.

It’s a logical conclusion, and one that easily could be confirmed by watching the futures market for aluminum. After all, if a car company is going to switch its highest volume vehicle over to a material notorious for wild price swings, it had better line up its supply and pricing well ahead of production. Especially when, as one materials expert told me, building every F-150 body (not just the exterior panels) out of aluminum would take nearly all of the virgin aluminum sheet in the world for one year.

Of course, aluminum — like steel — is recyclable, and locking up a supply of recycled sheet would greatly reduce the demand for virgin material. It also would reduce the price per pound dramatically. And, from the look of Ford’s Atlas Concept, the next F-150 isn’t going to be a downsized shrinking violet.

That doesn’t mean the unitized body fitted to a separate steel frame doesn’t have to be made entirely out of aluminum, however. By using lighter, stronger grades of steel in the frame and body, Ford could reduce the amount of aluminum it needs to reach its weight targets. And the alloy also can be used in suspension and other pieces through the vehicle, along with magnesium and other materials. This is not a one-size-fits-all deal. There’s more to the solution that just aluminum.

There’s also more to the future than just the F-150.

The global Ranger isn't global. It also isn't the answer Ford is looking for in North America.Some have questioned Ford’s unwillingness to sell its so-called global Ranger in the U.S. This 7/8-scale pickup is nearly the same size as the F-150, considerably lighter, and powered by smaller engines. Building and selling it everywhere but here would let Ford work out the kinks before it introduced generation 1.5 as the new F-100. And there would be less need to go all “radical” in terms of materials on the full-size F-150.

There’s only one problem with that. There would have to be a significant price difference between Ranger 1.5 and the next F-150 for buyers to flock to it. If given the choice of two similar products, they’ll opt for the full-fat, full-feature real thing or nothing at all. Also, the Ranger in its current guise costs Ford about the same to build as the full-size truck. So much for that idea.

Another possibility is building a F-100 without a separate frame. This unit-body pickup would be substantially lighter than the F-150, and less costly. It could do everything the lower end of the F-150 lineup does, but with better fuel economy. Plus, it could be powered by the 2.0-liter EcoBoost engine, with a naturally aspirated V6 as the standard motor. No need for a V8 here. There’s only one problem. The F-150 buyer wants a work truck, something that can be beaten on and come back for more. It has to tow, haul and handle tough assignments, something that can be a problem with a unit-body truck with integral bed. So that idea won’t work, either.

This leaves us with a solution that meets two problems Ford faces. On the one hand, it has to reduce the weight of its bread-and-butter pickup without alienating the customer or ratcheting up the cost of the F-150. Second, there is a growing group of buyers who would like the utility of a pickup, but don’t need its full size and capability. This market might have been satisfied by a new American Ranger small pickup, but it went away as the market for small pickups shrank and the price of entry-level full-size pickups declined. Building a new small pickup to replace it would have cost Ford more than it would have gained from the sale of the truck, so it let the new American Ranger die.

Meet Ford's workhorse motor, the 2.0-liter EcoBoost. Strong enough for a Taurus and the Focus ST, it'll also power a pickup unlike any other.After a few false starts, however, Dearborn has realized that this buyer doesn’t need a body-on-frame trucklet. A unit-body truck would do just fine. Also, the market has changed. There are a significant number of buyers who want the utility of a truck, but not the size or cost — especially with $4/gallon fuel. It is a bimodal market that trends both young and older, with a strong central streak of men and women with families populated by teenage children. Giving these buyers a smaller, lighter, more fuel-efficient pickup with sporty styling and unique features would take a lot of pressure off the lower end of the F-150 lineup, and give Ford the opportunity to satisfy those buyers with an even more focused pickup. Also, this strategy would reduce the scope of customers the F-150 would have to satisfy, and allow engineers to rationalize the number of body styles, cabs, bed lengths, etc. offered. As a result, through this rationalization the F-150 could absorb some of the extra cost aluminum would bring, and keep the its price closer to that of a conventional truck with poorer fuel economy. Imagine that ad campaign.

What’s missed in all of this is that Honda had it right with its unit-body Ridgeline pickup. That vehicle’s big flaws were that it was out ahead of the market, it didn’t embody Honda’s innovative take on solving a problem, and it was designed and pitched as an alternative to a conventional pickup, which it wasn’t. What Honda needed was a vehicle that cast fresh eyes on the needs and desires of suburban pickup truck owners, and wrapped the result in a long heritage of pickup truck dominance; something Honda doesn’t have. Ford, however, does, and its two-pronged attack on the pickup market, beginning with the 2015 introduction of the next F-150, might just change the way we view pickups. The next American Ranger, for want of a better descriptor, won’t be a low-cost, dirt-cheap, miniaturized conventional pickup as before. I predict that, in light of Ford’s moves in the car market, will be small, light, fast and capable with unique styling, seating for four/five, car-like amenities, four-cylinder power, and a reconfigurable bed. Also, while it may share hard points, components and systems with the Fusion/Mondeo, it won’t just drop a pickup body on a sedan chassis. It will be engineered for the task. Finally, this small pickup will not only satisfy the needs of suburban Americans and upscale businesses that need a truck but can do without a full-size, it also will appeal to those buyers in Europe and elsewhere who are just now being seduced by the idea of the pickup lifestyle. People who, 20 years ago, found themselves mesmerized by vehicles they never before would have considered owning: SUVs.

Reader Comments

There are no comments for this journal entry. To create a new comment, use the form below.

PostPost a New Comment

Enter your information below to add a new comment.

My response is on my own website »
Author Email (optional):
Author URL (optional):
Some HTML allowed: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <code> <em> <i> <strike> <strong>