By on November 15, 2010

By 2016, federal laws will mandate that the fleet fuel economy of light trucks and SUV’s will be 30 mpg. Which means manufacturers will need to get their thinking caps on if they are to meet this standard. If they don’t, they’ll have to re-think their position in a very profitable area of the market. Ford, which is synonymous with trucks, is planning a diet.

Pickuptrucks.com reports that Ford is toying with weight saving materials to meet these regulations for its F-150 range. Their sources say that Ford is looking at re-engineering a new platform which uses a magnesium-aluminum alloy. And gasp, to the abject horror of the “true truck” crowd, Ford could retire some of its body-on-steel ladder frame. To ensure stiffness, Ford is expected to have some elements of unibody construction, but will keep the cargo box and cab separate. Aluminum will be used in the body panels, but the interior of the cargo box will still be steel.

In combination with the all-new engines which Ford developed for the current F-150′s, the slim-fest should do something to the fuel economy. At the cost of another economy: Those space-age alloys sound awfully expensive.

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58 Comments on “(Plausible) Wild Ass Rumor Of The Day: Ford Trucks Going On A Diet?...”


  • avatar
    Dragophire

    We all saw this coming.  should have happened ten years ago. I am sure the other full size truck makers are thinking the same way.  Funny thing is they could get close now with just a little weight lose (about 400lbs) and a diesel. Instead since the gov is so hard on diesels the automakers will have to lose about 1000lbs per truck. I do realize that 400lbs wont affect the mpg to much but with a diesel engine it would get significantly better mileage in the lighter duty  trucks. Even Audi is realizing with their Q7 that in order to affect mpg significantly it would have to lose about 1000lbs. (read that somewhere?) The Isuzu Rodeo was Unit body and it was pretty tough but lighter then the prior gen.  Cant remember exactly how they did it.  If any one remembers let me know.

    • 0 avatar
      jaje

      I don’t necessarily think the gov’t is extra hard on diesels (they brought the US up to sulfur content standards and now require lower emissions) as opposed to gasoline powered cars – it is just the typical US customer ignorance of diesel and their association of it with your typical loud and smoke belching large trucks out there.
       
      Diesels should be the craze right now b/c of their superior fuel economy return compared to its slightly higher costs to almost all other ICE engines, hybrids or EVs.  Also as carbon fiber and it’s lower cost blends come down further in price we should start to see it rolling out in more normal priced cars.

    • 0 avatar
      Tree Trunk

      The Rodeo at least the first generation is body on frame.

  • avatar
    Dragophire

    Also wanted to add (correct me if i am wrong) hasnt Subaru from the original Legacy to the current one only gained about 250lbs? And much now much bigger.  I think that number is about right. Got to goto work now cant look it up..lol

  • avatar
    Jimal

    Perhaps this is the “in” for the small unit body trucks some of us are begging for. Cruzemino or Focuschero anyone?

    • 0 avatar
      OldandSlow

      You may want to choose a bigger platform, if you intend to tow even a small light weight boat. You don’t want the tail wagging the dawg.

    • 0 avatar
      Jimal

      I don’t own a boat nor to I intend to. What if I don’t have anything to tow or the need to tow? Just like “trail rated” 4×4 SUV’s that never leave pavement, how many full-size half-ton pickups are actually used for towing? I guarantee there is a market out there for a small, light weight pickup truck for small business and homeowners such as myself.

  • avatar
    OldandSlow

    We are talking about a huge percentage of Ford’s volume of sales in North America.
     
    The North American pick-up truck arms race over the past 30 years has added a lot of bulk to the full-sized pick up.  Most of the front ends are boxy and have a large flat surface moving through the air at 65 mph.
     
    A government mandate won’t diminish the demand for brawny pick up trucks in my opinion.  Ford needs to tread carefully here.

    • 0 avatar
      cdotson

      OldandSlow:
       
      The aerodynamics of a pickup truck are driven largely by the design of the rear end, not the front end.  Pickups have nearly the worst possible design for controlling wake area (box vans would be worse).  The drag coefficient can be reduced by changing rear end design.  Lobbying the EPA to allow fuel economy testing to reflect installation of tonneau covers or aerodynamic bed caps that would be factory standard could make a tangible economy difference (this was previously denied to Ford though I can’t remember where I read it; Chevrolet was then subsequently allowed to test with a tonneau cover for the Avalanche so both precedents exist).
       
      I think the larger impact this will have to aesthetic truck design is in a sudden emasculation with the next generation of pickups.  The cross-sectional area of trucks has made a dramatic jump upward over the past 15 years.  If EPA denies rear-treatment efforts to reduce the drag coefficient, major drag force reduction can be made by making the trucks narrower/shorter/lower.

  • avatar

    Maybe there’s hope for a Ranger after all.  But at what cost?

  • avatar
    fredtal

    So why not put a nice 4 cyl turbo diesel in one.  Should be easy enough to get 25 mpg and still have the torque for hauling stuff if only a bit slower. 

    • 0 avatar
      vvk

      Because they would require some driving skill. Pickups drivers are not known for that, to put it mildly.
       

    • 0 avatar
      dastanley

      Because they would require some driving skill. Pickups drivers are not known for that, to put it mildly.

      vvk:  A little stereotyping are we?  

      On the contrary, I would say that many pickup drivers are skilled drivers, especially if they’re driving manuals and hauling loads or pulling loaded trailers on dirt roads over steep mountaneous terrain in Northwest NM or southern CO.  It’s easy to be a “good driver” in a small, sporty, responsive car on a nice smooth highway.  I mean, many people are “good drivers” in a Miata, BMW, or Corvette. What with ESC, ABS, a precision clutch, smooth shifting action, and a tight suspension, even I can look like a “good driver” on the right highway.  OTH, a large heavy vehicle with a wandering loose steering rack and a sloppy 3 on the tree or 4 on the floor with an abrupt clutch can be a bitch to drive well on some roads.  And no, I don’t own a pickup truck, but have driven many large commercial vehicles over the past 30 years, as well as borrowed my share of friends’ pickups.

  • avatar
    M 1

    Despite their popularity, many truck guys already regard Fords somewhat skeptically. They’ve traditionally gone for flimsier C-channel frames in classes where Chevy and Dodge would step up to a full-box frame, and their sheet metal has always been thinner gauge. UAW Pensions (and therefore, “build cost”) is Job One.
     
    Ford’s primary selling point has been price, and these new measures aren’t going to bode well for them.

    • 0 avatar
      cdotson

      Ford has had a box frame since at least 2004; I don’t think Dodge had a box frame before 2002.  Not sure when Chevy made the switch.
       
      It shouldn’t matter what design of beam the frame uses as long as it is sufficiently stiff in bending to prevent beaming under heavy load and long-term cab sag (which 80s/90s Fords were famous for) and sufficiently rigid in torsion to feel solid and handle cornering well while loaded.  In this respect both box and C-channels are inferior to I-beams, but box beams are used in modern trucks because hydroforming has allowed the beam to be made to incorporate secondary features and bends/kinks without requiring as many secondary operations during manufacturing.

    • 0 avatar
      M 1

      2500-series Dodges had boxed frame rails at least as far back as 2000, which was the earliest of the then-new body style I bought…

    • 0 avatar
      TR4

      Last time I looked trucks with names like Mack, Kenworth, and Peterbuilt still use channel type frames as do the trailers they pull.

    • 0 avatar
      PaulieWalnut

      AFAIK Ford were the first to go to a fully boxed hydroformed steel frame in the half-tons. The others have since followed suit. The continue to use a c-channel frame in the HD trucks but seeing as they currently own about half that market, it doesn’t seem to have hurt them much.

      As for the thinner guage sheet metal, I’d like to see some evidence backing that assertion up. The generally greater curb weight of Ford trucks tends to suggest otherwise.

    • 0 avatar
      John Horner

      Ford dominates the US light truck market. The player which has primarily sold on price is Dodge.

    • 0 avatar
      aspade

      Ford may have had thin body panels once but among current half tons they’re the most heavily built.  GM’s 2007+ trucks are hands down the worst in that regard, you can’t even lean tools against the truck without denting it.
       
       

  • avatar
    Robert.Walter

    Perhaps this is the blueprint for the talked-about F-100 pickup.

    Btw, frame design is not that simple.  C-channel vs. box frame construction is only one aspect of frame design, others are basic geometries as well as the thickness and the types of materials employed. As an example, not saying it is the case with any particular manufacturer’s vehicle, but a box frame of simple steel with a thin cross-section, could well under-perform a c-channel frame of high-strength steel, with a more generous material thickness. Same could be said about focussing on “gage” as being an over-simplification of what makes durable construction.

  • avatar
    radimus

    The new fleet average shouldn’t be too hard for Ford.  Take the Transit Connect, design a version with an open bed, and stuff a diesel in it or maybe the hybrid drivetrain from the Escape.  That would relieve a lot of pressure to increase the mileage of the F-150.

  • avatar
    Wheeljack

    Well, if poor everyday utility and lousy fuel economy wouldn’t get the “casual truckers” out of the market, then the sky-high sticker prices certainly will.

    I hope everyone is prepared for the price of every service (where the service provider requires a truck to do their job) to go up in price to compensate. Time to consider taking some basic plumbing/electrical classes at the local community college and learn how to do things yourself.

    • 0 avatar
      LectroByte

      All the plumbers and electricians here in East TN drive vans, not pickups.   But I see your point.

    • 0 avatar
      Chicago Dude

      I hope everyone is prepared for the price of every service (where the service provider requires a truck to do their job) to go up in price to compensate. Time to consider taking some basic plumbing/electrical classes at the local community college and learn how to do things yourself.
       
      You’re kidding, right?  Basic plumbing or electrical work requires a truck?  The truth is more along the lines of people in the trades wanting the manliest vehicle they can get.  A vehicle like the HHR panel “van” or the Transit Connect will meet their needs with room to spare.
      They can deal with it.  Or watch those that do underbid them on all their jobs.

    • 0 avatar
      John Horner

      The vast majority of plumbers and electricians are better served with a small van like a Transit Connect than they are by a pickup truck. All of which is already besides the point. Around here these guys are already billing at $75-$125/hour.
       

    • 0 avatar
      imag

      Chicago Dude: I worked at a company where we tried to use Aerostars and Astro vans for electrical work for two-person crews.  The vehicles ended up dangerously overloaded.  The suspension and brakes are just not up for the kind of work that many of these people do.  Spare parts, tools, ladders, wire, strut, and conduit end up weighing a tremendous amount.  Our larger vehicles were Sprinters, and even the 1500s were a bit maxed out compared to the 2500s.
       
      On top of that, the access in and out of the little vans made them absolutely despised.  I cannot imagine trying to crawl around in the back of an crowded HHR to find the part you need.  You would have to unload the entire vehicle in the driveway at every job.
       
      So while you *might* be able to physically fit most of the tools, hardware, and equipment required to perform basic plumbing and electrical tasks into an HHR, it is not a reasonable vehicle to use on a professional basis for that activity.  In fact, you don’t even want *other* people to use those vehicles, as they become a legitimate road hazard when so overloaded.

  • avatar
    Stingray

    I would wildly guess that the F-150 and the T6 Ranger platforms are going to converge at some point.
     
     

  • avatar
    Darth Lefty

    But who is going to buy them?

  • avatar
    John Horner

    Finally, some focus on getting the job done as efficiently as possible just might be coming to the light truck business. The multi-decade fascination with intimidation and compensation might just be winding down. First rap music, then monster trucks. Yi Ha!

  • avatar
    FleetofWheel

    Funny to read critical comments about truck owners buying trucks of greater power/size then is required when passenger car enthusiasts seek the very same thing in the way of big wheels, engine power, and so on.

    A Nissan Versa is efficient car travel. If you seek more size/power than that in a car, you must have compensation issues like truck and SUV drivers.

  • avatar
    Crosley

    These standards will never truly go into effect, there will be some sort of offset credits the government will offer to make hitting this goal easier.
    If the Big 3 are no longer allowed to make full-sized trucks and SUV’s, they’ll go out of business, period. That is their bread and butter, the SUV and pickup is the only thing that kept the Big 3 from going extinct a long time ago.
     
    The UAW will make sure that Congress “loosens” this requirement, environmentalists be damned.
     

  • avatar
    340-4

    Well, what did everyone expect, really? That CAFE and the EPA would always ignore the huge shift away from cars to trucks?
     
    The marketing departments did their jerbs – they convinced Americans (er, excuse me, CONSUMERS) that they needed to buy trucks – that they were the vehicle of choice for a daily driver for one person to commute to work and haul the kids around. When, in reality, station wagons and minivans were just fine. Trucks will return to what they once were – vehicles for those that need and use them as trucks. There will always be full size heavy duty trucks.
     
    So, marketing departments, get us back on track with common sense vehicles. Combine that with smaller, unibody, turbodiesel or mild-hybrid ‘trucks’ (which are probably more like the Honda Ridgeline) which get 30mpg and there you go. It’s almost like a new segment.

  • avatar
    hriehl1

    There was a time when pickup beds were not 4 feet from grade, and cabs 5 feet from grade (or whatever they are now). They have gotten to their current behemoth dimensions simply as a matter of styling to suit buyer preferences. And that is the American way.

    But I’m sure many who really use a pickup for WORK long for the older designs where you didn’t need to lift a bag of cement to chest-level to get into the pickup bed.

    It never ceases to amaze me how the American consumer, in the aggregate, chooses form over function. I can see soccer-moms choosing space-inefficient SUVs for a certain look, but the evolution of the pickup away from practical design does surprise me some.

    I’m no fan of government meddling in the market, but this might bring some design changes to pickups that will at least be welcomed by those who use them for WORK (though admittedly, probably the minority of pickup owners).

    • 0 avatar
      geozinger

      @hriel: One of my coworkers recently picked up (ha!) a new-ish F150, I was dismayed at how tall it was. It seems like a 12/10ths model of the trucks we used to have. I was pondering a late model Dodge Dakota recenly, and it became apparent that as the full size trucks got fuller, the mid sized trucks became the same size as the old full size trucks. No wonder Ford includes a ‘man step’ on certain pickups.
       
      I’ve posted on here before, there was a time when we raced, we could fit everything we needed into a standard sized 73 Chevy C10 pickup with 250 ci six cylinder motor and three on the tree tranny. We dolly towed several cars, from huge old Chrylser Newports destined for the demolition derby to our Vega drag car to the modified Dodge Omni we used for Pro Solo events. We didn’t go real fast while towing, but we got there just fine. And when we were unloading, we only needed a stepladder to get to the stuff that was lashed to the TOP of our cap, not just to get into the bed.
       
      I still believe a market exists for something like the old Dodge Rampage or the VW pickup. The domestics and VW (and others) already make El Ranchero style small trucks in South America, would it kill them to Federalize a few and see how they sell?
       
      Also, kill CAFE. No other countries have a CAFE equivalent. This is one less thing we could do without.

    • 0 avatar
      Educator(of teachers)Dan

      @geozinger +1 on everything you said.  I own a 2004 F150 Heritage, it has the 1997 to 2003 body style but produced in 2004 to use up the parts in stock while the new ones were sold right along side it on the lot.  It’s basic save the auto trans (which I wish was a stick but used buyers shouldn’t be choosy.)  It has a 4.6V8 and is 2wd, honestly it is the largest pick up I ever want to use.  The bed is still a little high for my taste and I know the bed on my Ford is lower than the bed on Chevys and Dodges from the same model year.  What ever happened to a good honest truck?  My future F-I-L has a 1972 Chevy C10 and it looks like an El Camino next to my truck but damn if he doesn’t work it like a rented mule.  Only options that old girl has is a 350 and auto trans.  Not even power steering.

    • 0 avatar
      dastanley

      Agreed.  Today in the Walmart parking lot, I pushed my empty cart around a new and HUGE Ford F-450 dually extended cab – with one rodeo mom (the Farmington, NM equivalent of a soccer mom) sitting in the chrome house, er, I mean cab.  She needs at least 2 spaces for that thing, preferably more.  Now, with that said, for all I know, she may actually need that type of vehicle for horse trailers, etc.  But still, that’s just over the top.

    • 0 avatar
      Jimal

      I used to own an ’87 Dodge (full size) D-100 pickup that I used for weekend projects. When my Volvo 245 packed it in I pressed it into service as a commuter for a couple weeks. Parked at work next to my buddy’s ’07 Dakota, and the mid-size Dakota was about the same size as my full-size Ram. The Ram sitting a couple spaces down dwarfed both.
      Talk about scope creep.

  • avatar
    AaronH

    Why don’t you all start a car company and build 30 MPG pickup trucks instead of bitching to Ford (like brats) to do it for you?…You know…Since it is so easy to do…LOL!
    You can’t get high mileage from a diesel AND have clean emissions…A little study of physics and chemistry here does wonders.

  • avatar
    racebeer

    Do I smell a Ford Ridgeline in the future??

  • avatar
    djoelt1

    I used to drive a 1972 Chevrolet Pickup when I did home construction a few years ago and it looked PUNY compared to other vehicles at the lumber yard.  Like a compact truck in comparison, although it could carry the ubiquitous 4×8 sheets flat in the bed between the wheel wells.  Little 14″ wheels were the order of the day.  For most people, a truck of that size and capability is enough.  With modern materials and engineering and engines, 30 mpg seems plausible.

    I replaced the vehicle after a year with a Honda Civic and a tilting 4×8 trailer.  It could tow up to 1500 lbs over flat ground – careful with the clutch!  It was a much better solution to my situation given that it got 4x the mileage, had a built in Knack Box (trunk) to hold tools; could carry 4 helpers; was much quicker from place to place when in passenger mode; and the trailer was better than a bed in that it: a) tilted; b) had a 12″ load height; c) could be left at the jobsite with the materials in it. Did I mention it cost $2500 and I could get in with muddy boots without ruining the carpet?

    If pickup trucks are expensive or not available, things will still get picked up.  We are too obsessed with the particular familiar form factor…

    • 0 avatar
      dastanley

      Agreed.  There are many older pickups driving around NW NM, and yes, the older straight 6, three on the tree, 2WD pickups do look small and flimsy in comparison, but they still run and get the job done.  Trucks today seem to have taken on a battleship mentality, that bigger is always better.  But like the IOWA class battleships resurrected in the 80s (and re-mothballed in the 90s), they look good and give the owner bragging rights, but are expensive to operate, a bitch to park, and inefficient for what they accomplish.  Sometimes, a smaller frigate, cruiser, or destroyer can complete the mission quicker and more efficiently.  Shame that the Ranger is going away in 2011.

  • avatar
    nikita

    looking at the sales numbers, GM and Ford are DEAD without F-series Sierra/Silverado sales volumes. At what point do the CAFE requirements go away, 8501lb GVWR? How about a trick like was done before, in the late 1970′s I believe. 6001lb GVWR was the cutoff for car vs truck standards, so the 5600 GVWR F-100 was dropped in favor of the 6050 GVWR F-150. Similar things happend over at Chrysler and GM. The unintended consequence of the regulation was more emissions, not less. Isnt there a 1500HD GM Pickup designation already?

  • avatar
    Zykotec

    I miss the ElCamino/Ranchero ( Brat and Caddy etc. ) style of pickup, and I’m quite sure other people do to, and they didn’t sell too bad did they ?

  • avatar
    Rental Man

    On a trip to Australia I saw the El-Camino reincarnation The Ford Falcon UTE / Holden UTE and their Sporty sisters FPV / HSV. The Holden was almost here as a Pontiac G8 Pickup. They even had A 4 door raised version of the sporty 2 door UTE called the Avalanche XUV Truck.  
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/HSV_Avalanche

    http://www.holden.com.au/vehicles/ute

  • avatar
    Moparman426W

    Say a guy owns a fullsized pickup, but the plant where he is employed is only 5 miles away from his residence. His pencil pushing neighbor drives a corolla, but has a 35 mile one way commute to his office every day. Who is using more fuel and polluting the environment more?
    The type of vehicle one drives is not cut and dried regarding the impact on use of resources and environmental friendliness, there are many factors involved, and many who condemn people for what they drive need to look at the whole picture. For example I’m sure many of these same people live in a home that is larger than what they actually need.  More space to heat and cool, and the larger house uses up more natural resources like the wood and extra materials need to build it, more resources when the time comes for repairs.

    • 0 avatar
      vvk

      To extend your example. The guy with the pickup has an “accident” (not really, because he is very aggressive with his 8000 lb truck and 400 hp) with a young family in a Hyundai Accent. The adults are killed instantly but the children in the back seat are “just” paralyzed.
      Meanwhile, the pencil pusher in his Corolla falls asleep at the wheel (because his car is so boring) and collides with a Ford Transit Connect. All are unhurt because a) they are not aggressive drivers since they have small, light, underpowered vehicles and b) Transit Connect is low to the ground, so its crush zones are COMPATIBLE with Corolla’s.
       
       

  • avatar
    nrd515

    I know someone who constantly whines about SUVs and pickups with one person in them. He doesn’t seem to understand that not everyone has 8 brothers and sisters that give him access to the many 2500 series GM pickups they use at the family business, and can only afford ONE vehicle to do everything. He used to whine about my 2003 Ram 1500 all the time, but I needed a truck sometimes to carry building materials to some properties I own once in a while, and sometimes to haul junk from the same property. I don’t have anyone that had a truck I could easily borrow, and I can’t afford two vehicles, so I bought the Ram. Now I have to pay someone to haul stuff out there and out of there.
    It’s been gone almost 3 years now, but I miss it’s unstoppability in snow, and was more comfortable than my car is. If I hadn’t gotten hurt, I would probably still have it, or would have recently replaced it with another one. I don’t miss the every 5 days gassing it up though for $50+. Every week to ten days at $40 a shot is a lot better.

  • avatar
    Z71_Silvy

    The trucks would only weigh about 300 pounds (class leading) if they would get rid of all the crap and ugliness…

  • avatar
    DenverMike

    Make the F-150 the size/GVW of a Ridgeline and I’ll get this instead…

    http://images6.ecarlist.com/photos/1136_572947/572947_001_1331.jpg

  • avatar
    Moparman426W

    LOL…Mike. That’s what a lot of people would end up doing.  I highly doubt that ford would ever screw up the F-150 by making it similar to a ridgeline tho, so I would not worry.

  • avatar
    econobiker

    Plastic beds, just end the metal addiction and make entirely plastic truck beds- inside, outside, topside, etc. Ford, you have the technology…


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