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

Are you ready for an aluminum pickup truck?
But Ford is expected to go well beyond tweaks to its engine designs in its pursuit of a more economical pickup. Rumors have suggested that Ford has used aluminum extensively in the new truck, in place of steel, in a quest to cut the F-150’s weight by hundreds of pounds.

That has worried some potential buyers, because aluminum isn’t anywhere near as strong as steel. Obviously, Ford Motor Company (NYSE:F)’s truck designers aren’t clueless – they’ll likely keep the aluminum up front, with plenty of steel supporting the loaded section in back. But taking that much weight (as much as 700 pounds, rumors suggest) out of a pickup may not sit well with some fans.

Ford’s also expected to make heavy use of aerodynamic tweaks to lower the truck’s fuel consumption. Last year’s Ford Atlas Concept show truck had funky gas-saving features like “active wheels”, with shutters that close at highway speeds to streamline the truck and save gas.

Those may or may not end up in production. But they show the lengths that Ford went to in its testing to try to wring maximum fuel economy out of its next F-150. And if the changes turn out to be radical, some conservative pickup buyers may choose to look elsewhere.

How far down this road will Ford go?
In all likelihood, Ford Motor Company (NYSE:F) will make sure that its F-Series fans feel at home in the new truck. It should have plenty of improvements along the lines that GM has shown – an improved ride, a nicer interior, and more convenience features – while still delivering the utility and towing capacity that serious truck users expect. And if Ford’s other recent products are anything to judge by, it’ll look great and sell just fine.

But it’s also possible that Ford, feeling the pressure of ever-tightening fuel-economy regulations, will go a little further (or maybe more than a little further) down the gas-saving road than buyers expect. A hybrid pickup is likely to raise some eyebrows among truck fans, but if it performs well, objections will fade.

Aluminum body panels or frames could be a tougher sell, though. If a pickup isn’t seen as rugged, it’ll struggle in the marketplace. To hang on to its class-leading position, Ford will have to prove that its new F-150 is an improvement in all ways over the great truck it’s replacing – and that’s always a challenge with diehard truck buyers. We’ll see how this plays out next year.

The article Why Ford’s Next F-150 Could Fail originally appeared on Fool.com and is written by John Rosevear.

Fool contributor John Rosevear owns shares of Ford and General Motors. The Motley Fool recommends Ford and General Motors. The Motley Fool owns shares of Ford.

Copyright © 1995 – 2013 The Motley Fool, LLC. All rights reserved. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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