ROMEO, MI. “Continuous improvement to the [light-duty] Ford F-150 never stops,” Jackie Dimarco, F-150 chief engineer, declared during a media test-drive event held here yesterday at the OEM’s Michigan Proving Ground (MPG).
Key improvements of particular appeal to commercial fleet buyers of pickups that Dimarco cited included:
- The F-150 “still having best-in-class payload of 3,120 lbs and towing capacity of 11,300 lbs
- The ability of the truck’s 3.5-L EcoBoost V6 to “boost fuel efficiency by up to 20% compared to ‘generic’ V8” gasoline-fueled engines
- And— as of this fall— availability of a compressed natural gas (CNG) or liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) engine-conversion option.
“While our F-250 pickups are already available with a CNG conversion option,’ Dimarco told FleetOwner, “we heard that F-Series Super Duty buyers also wanted to add CNG-capable half—ton pickups to their fleets.”
Therefore, starting with the 2014 model year, F-150s powered by Ford’s 3.7-liter V6 can be spec’ed with a factory-installed gaseous fuel “prep package” that will allow these pickups to operate on either CNG or LPG.
That package includes hardened valves and valve seats as well as pistons and rings to enable running on either gasoline or the alternative fuel via separate fuel systems, per Ford.
The hands-on media program Ford hosted was decidedly more of a shake/bounce/grip/slide event than the sedate test-driving of pickup trucks typically arranged for journalists.
The morning-long exercise was designed to showcase what the OEM terms the “Built Ford Tough” performance of its half-ton F-150-- on an actual test track.
For starters, Ford gave reporters the opportunity to drive (hang on like a rodeo-rider, more exactly) an F-150 as well as three similarly equipped competitive models over a series of vibration-inducing (to say the least) testing surfaces.
The journalists also put an F-150 and a trio of competitors through a fast-and-furious yet quite educational slalom course on a “wet pad” (aka “skid pad”) to highlight steering, braking and electronic stability-control capabilities.
Thirdly, an F-150 was put up against two other competitive trucks (the third was ruled out of this round due to some sort of spec’ing miscalculation) over a trailering course that featured going hammer-to-metal up a 7% grade followed gliding over enough winding, swooping roadway to judge the effectiveness of engine-braking to slow and control the roll.
The truck models (all gasoline-fueled) put through their paces were the:
- 2013 Ford F-150 XLT SuperCrew, powered by 3.5-L EcoBoost V6 (365 hp)
- 2014 Chevy Silverado 1500 LTZ Crew, powered by 5.3-L EcoTec3 V8 (355 hp)
- 2014 Ram 1500, powered by 5.7-L Hemi V8 (395 hp)
- 2014 Toyota Tundra SR5 Crewmax, powered by 5.7-L DOHC V8 (381 hp)
Ford executives on site noted that the 2014 Ford F-50 is slated to be available at dealers Nov. 1st.
“Our new pickups go through over 9-million miles of testing, including ‘work-simulated’ tests here at our 4,000-acre MPG facility,” said Phil Collarena, vehicle line director—Truck. “At MPG, there are 110 plus miles of vehicle-test surfaces,” he added. “These provide for durability, hill-climbing, gradeability and off-road evaluations. There’s a high-speed oval as well.”
Turning to sales, Doug Scott, truck & SUV marketing manager, declared that “Ford continues to dominate the pickup landscape with [sales] up 22% year-over-year for August. He noted that ver 499,000 F-Series trucks were sold by the OEM in 2013 alone.
According to Scott, Ford’s bread-and-butter F-150 model is the “fastest growing” model in the light-duty, under $30,000 [MSP} pickup segment. “The F-150,” he said, “experienced growth here of 3.0 percentage points [to bring its market share] to 27% while [General Motors’] Silverado/Sierra model lost 1.3 percentage points and Ram went down 1.0 percentage points.”
He added that in the next priciest light-duty segment— MSRP from $30,000 to $40,000—the F-150 is “the sales leader with over 50% of the segment—quadruple that of its next nearest competitor, the [Chevrolet] Silverado.”