Ford’s F-Series lightweighting strategy is successful as record sales continue
Friday, January 13, 2017
Ford Motor Company reported that it sold 820,799 F-Series pickup trucks in 2016, a 5.2% increase for the year, making it America’s best-selling vehicle for the 35th consecutive year and best selling pickup truck for 40 years straight. F-Series sales totalled 87,512 trucks in December, a 2.7% increase compared with the same month a year ago. Strong retail demand for the F-150 especially, but also for the F-150 Raptor (an on-road version of the truck), and the all-new Super Duty F-250 contributed to the best overall sales month for F-Series in 11 years – the F-Series includes the F-350, F-450 and F550 models.
The record sales of the F-Series have been achieved despite months of aggressive TV commercials by General Motors Company, showing concrete blocks dropped from a height of five feet into the bare pickup beds of a Chevrolet Silverado and a Ford F-150. The commercials tout the alleged advantages of the roll-formed, high-strength steel beds in GM’s trucks.
Ford can now declare victory and celebrate the success of its lightweighting strategy of switching to aluminum-intensive vehicles in 2014. Back then, the media was overwhelmed with reports full of suspicion, calling Ford’s move risky, a gamble, a billion-dollar bet etc, or a ‘’game-changer’’ if successful. To dispel fears, the company resorted to calling the metal used as “military grade” – indeed, the high-strength aluminum used in new F-150 trucks to persuade potential buyers is not the same kind of aluminum used in the production of aluminum cans. Actually, the aluminum used in F-Series vehicles is primarily 6xxx series aluminum alloy, heat-treated after formation in order to increase its strength. It is not actually of a different “grade” than the 6xxx series alloys used in other applications and industries. The 7xxx series alloys are actually the strongest alloys, but Ford most likely selected the 6xxx thanks to its corrosion resistance and 'weldability'.
By adding 1080 lbs. (490 kg) of aluminum – or roughly about one-quarter of its total weight – Ford managed to reduce the weight of the new F-150 trucks by some 700 lbs. (317 kg). Ford points out that lightweighting has given the truck owners more of everything they wanted: more payload, more towing, more comfort and accessories, better acceleration, better fuel economy, better vehicle dynamics. Aluminum sheet and extruded products for the body and closures represent over one half of this content. More...