By Craig Trudell
Ford Motor Co., the U.S. pickup leader for more than three decades, will expand its F-Series truck line for the 2014 model year to protect a widening lead over Detroit rivals.
Eight new F-Series iterations, including an F-150 Tremor half-ton sport truck, will expand Ford’s pickup portfolio to its largest ever, the Dearborn, Mich.-based company said. Ford’s lead over General Motors Co. and Chrysler Group LLC expanded even as the duo introduced new trucks within the past year.
“We put so much importance on continuous improvement and making sure that we’re delivering a better solution to our customer every year,” Doug Scott, Ford’s truck marketing manager, said in a telephone interview. “It’s one of the reasons we have such an aggressive product cadence and it’s what really differentiates us.”
GM, Ford and Chrysler are racing to upgrade pickups, which carry higher margins than other vehicles. The trucks generate $8,000 to $10,000 in gross profit per truck and account for the bulk of North American earnings at GM and Ford, according to Morgan Stanley. GM hadn’t redesigned its pickups since 2006 and has looked to its revamped trucks to win customers while Ford prepares to bring out redesigned pickups next year.
Ford redesigned the front end of its current generation trucks with flashier headlamps last year and made extensive upgrades to their powertrains two years earlier.
Ford F-Series deliveries surged 21 percent to 559,506 this year through September. F-Series extended its lead over combined sales of Detroit-based GM’s Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra trucks by 18 percent to 63,061. The F-Series’ advantage over Auburn Hills, Mich.-based Chrysler’s Ram pickups expanded by 19 percent to 296,719.
While Scott declined to discuss next-generation pickups, he confirmed company efforts to reduce vehicle weight that one metals industry analyst said could mark the start of the biggest shift in demand since the introduction of the aluminum can in 1959.
The 2015 F-150 that begins shipping this time next year will use aluminum in its body and might begin a shift from steel that could be the most “transformative trend” for the metal since the aluminum can, Lloyd O’Carroll, an analyst at Davenport & Co., said in a report last month.
“This has been the holy grail for the aluminum industry,” O’Carroll said in a telephone interview. “I’ve talked to a number of aluminum guys who are saying ‘I’m getting calls from Detroit every single day on what can I produce, when will I be able to produce it, and what kind of commitment needs to be made.’ ”
Ford declined to discuss plans for F-Series beyond the 2014 models, which go into production at the end of this month. The automaker’s 2007 sustainability plan called for Ford to take as much as 750 pounds out of each vehicle in its lineup, Scott said.
The new model year F-Series pickups will debut as Ford owners remain loyal to the brand, Scott said. Less than 4 percent of buyers for GM’s 2014 Silverado are purchasing the truck while disposing of an F-150, he said.
“It says that we’ve got a very competitive product,” Scott said. “I don’t think that there will be any problem once we’re sold down completely on the ’13s.”
Ford shares are up about 34 percent this year, outpacing the 21 percent gain for the Standard & Poor’s 500 index.