Ford Motor Company has bet its future on the launch of a precedent-setting aluminum body F-150 pickup truck. This is no small bet. The F-150 is the number one selling vehicle in America. It has been the number one selling pickup truck for over thirty years. If Ford’s bet pays off then they will have pushed the world auto industry onto a new course similar to what Ford achieved launching the Mustang in 1964. If they are wrong then this F-150 might be the next Edsel.
Will it sell to mid-America?
Ford claims the new F-150 is the toughest, smartest and most capable truck they have ever offered. Key to this claim is their use of aluminum instead of steel. As an aluminum truck the F-150 is approximately 700 pounds lighter. This scale of weight reduction translates into increased towing and carrying capacity. Less weight also delivers improved fuel performance. To double down on this reach for fuel efficiency supremacy Ford is also launching a breakthrough 2.7 liter Eco-boost 4 cylinder engine that promises to deliver both fuel economy and V-8 engine horsepower.
The question is whether this will sell in mid-America? Ford’s research says yes. They point to their research and third party studies that find that today’s customer wants it all. They want performance. They want fuel economy. And they want all this in a full size truck that can haul them and their gear to work, fishing, hunting or to the mall.
Ford appears to have gotten it right with the F-150. Ford claims their aluminum is military grade and is more dent resistant than the steel bodies of their truck competitors. The lighter F-150, especially with the Eco-boost four cylinder turbo engine, should win the fuel mileage competition which is hugely significant in today’s economy of $3+ pump prices and a middle class that hasn’t seen real wage growth for 15 years. And the look of this full size truck screams big, bad and tough.
Can a pickup truck fulfill the need for a national energy policy?
There is a lot that divides American opinion. The 2014 Ford F-150 with its pioneering technologies is a bridge toward a national consensus on how to solve Energy Independence and climate change. Ford has bet its company that all Americans are ready for solutions rather than more policy debate.
With the F-150 Ford has created a path for mid-America to go green. Going green is not a philosophy. It is a lifestyle. Moms go green to enhance the wellness of loved ones. The millennial generation goes green because it is both cool and provides solutions that reduce their living expenses (what they call being cool with a purpose). Business leaders go green to make money.
Ford has delivered a “green” pickup that embodies the “don’t trend on me” American spirit. There is nothing about this pickup that any red-blooded American cannot embrace. It is tough. It is fast. It will haul big boats up to mountain lakes. It mitigates pump price pain. It reduces climate changing tailpipe emissions compared to other full size pickups. Ford’s big bet holds the potential of reshaping and aligning Americans just like the Mustang did fifty years ago. I am betting on Ford…and Americans.
About the author
Bill Roth is an economist and the Founder of Earth 2017. He coaches business owners and leaders on proven best practices in pricing, marketing and operations that make money and create a positive difference. His book, The Secret Green Sauce, profiles business case studies of pioneering best practices that are proven to win customers and grow product revenues. Follow him on Twitter: @earth2017