The finished Atlas Concept at the Detroit unveiling with Ford CEO Alan Mulally (left) and Bill Ford, executive chairman. Carlos Osorio AP
Chris Woodyard, USA Today
Get ready for Ford's aluminum pickup truck, likely either to be
hailed as a breakthrough product or one that draws scads of comparisons
to a beer can.
Ford is going to announce in a couple of weeks that
the next F-150 will have a body made mostly of aluminum instead of
steel in a bid to save weight, and thus gas, says
Bloomberg News on the basis of what it says are confirmations by
unnamed sources. And, it says Ford is going to lengths to invite
comparisons to the aluminum used in military vehicles, not in flimsy
To try to sell the press, and thus the public, on
its new silver bullet, Ford has approached Alcoa to borrow some
military-grade aluminum for its booth at the North American
International Auto Show, where the truck is expected to make a grand
entrance, according to Bloomberg. The macho appeal of the military
vehicles would be used to crush the beer-can image.
though, making a truck out of aluminum is a highly risky move for Ford.
It has a proven winner in the F-150, not only the nation's most popular
pickup, but the most popular vehicle of any sort. Pickup truck buyers
tend to be brand-loyal traditionalists, and they don't take easily to
"Ford's sales job will be considerable: The company is
eager to demonstrate the toughness of aluminum, which is lighter than
steel, to pickup buyers who've made F-150 the bedrock of its business,"
If Ford can pull it off, analysts say F-150 will
blaze the way for more extensive use of aluminum in mainstream cars,
not just the high-end models where it found now.
drivetrain technology, lightweight materials will be a key component in
meeting the fuel economy standards of the future. Ford's use of
aluminum in the next F-150 foreshadows a widespread trend we'll be
seeing across every vehicle segment in the coming years," says Karl
Brauer of Kelley Blue Book in a statement to USA TODAY.
is apparently trying to squeeze more than 700 pounds out of its next
generation of pickup trucks, according to the news service. Aluminum
body panels would play a key role. Last January, Ford showed the Atlas
truck concept that is expected to be the forerunner to the next pickup.
has showed it is willing to make changes for a better product. When
turbocharged engines were introduced, they became a huge hit in F-Series
pickups. In the past, pickup owners clung to V-8s as the only way to
produce the towing and hauling power they need no matter how bad their
The change to aluminum may be the last big ones from
Ford CEO Alan Mulally, who is due to retire next year or leave for
Microsoft's top job. As the head of Boeing's commercial airline business
before coming to Ford, Mulally was a huge proponent of weight savings
through use of composites. But the resulting 787 jet has been racked by
delays and trouble. Mulally must be hoping that the same issues don't
extend to an aluminum F-150 even though the metal is trickier than steel
when it come to automotive components.