Why Ford Motor Company (F)’s Next F-150 Could Fail

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Ford’s Atlas Concept truck, unveiled in January, is thought to be a preview of next year’s all-new F-150. Photo credit: Ford Motor Company (NYSE:F).

Could Ford Motor Company (NYSE:F)‘s upcoming new F-150 be a failure?

Ford Motor Company (NYSE:F)It seems really unlikely, doesn’t it? After all, Ford Motor Company (NYSE:F)’s current truck is still a class leader, even though it’s in the final year of its run. And Ford’s other recent products have mostly been smash hits, and the F-Series is the company’s most important product line, hands-down.

Ford Motor Company (NYSE:F) clearly knows – in great detail – what pickup buyers want right now. The updates it has made to the F-150 and its Super Duty siblings have kept it fresh and competitive, even as it approaches the end of its model life.

But there’s an all-new F-150 coming next year. And while its chances of being a success are pretty high, there are still some ways in which Ford could miss the mark – and fall behind arch-rival General Motors Company (NYSE:GM).

GM took a conservative approach, but still raised the bar
General Motors Company (NYSE:GM) has brand-new trucks of its own, of course. The current versions of the Chevy Silverado and GMC Sierra are looking somewhat long in the tooth, because they are – the designs are several years old now, and General Motors Company (NYSE:GM) hasn’t been as good as Ford at making updates to keep them fresh.

GM’s 2014 Chevy Silverado is an evolutionary design. Photo credit: General Motors Company (NYSE:GM).

But the General’s all-new trucks will be arriving at dealers later this year, and early reviews have been quite positive. It’s true that GM took an evolutionary approach, rather than a revolutionary one – the new trucks are a bit bolder-looking than the old ones, but the overall look is similar. And while there are lots of improvements, most of them are incremental – a little more towing capacity here, a nicer dashboard there.

Taken together, of course, those improvements make the new truck a big step forward from the outgoing versions, say reviewers – and they should have no trouble finding buyers when they hit dealers this fall.

It won’t be surprising if they steal some sales from Ford Motor Company (NYSE:F) – that’s how it goes when you launch a new truck. But the question is, will Ford’s new truck, due next year, be enough of an improvement to win them back – and then some?

That’s a complicated question.

New fuel-sipping engines are a safe bet
Ford Motor Company (NYSE:F) has made it pretty clear that fuel economy will be a priority for the next F-Series. GM made it a priority, too: Ads for the new Chevy Silverado are expected to make a lot of hay out of the fact that GM’s new high-tech V8 actually beat Ford’s much-advertised V6 EcoBoost pickup drivetrain on EPA fuel-economy tests.

Naturally, Ford is expected to respond with fuel-saving improvements to its engines, such as “stop-start” technology that automatically turns the engine off when you stop, and starts it again when you press the gas pedal.

It’s also possible that Ford Motor Company (NYSE:F) will bring a hybrid pickup to market. Ford is known to be working with Toyota Motor Corporation (ADR) (NYSE:TM) on a hybrid powertrain for pickups and full-sized SUVs. It’s not clear when that will be ready for market, but I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see it introduced as an option on the next F-150.

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