Is the new Ford F150 ON target as a great truck or OFF?
In the US, New Year’s Day 2015 was all about College Football [and now NFL Playoffs] AND the advertising launch of Ford’s 2015 F150 truck. The intro TV spots for the new ALUMINUM-Body / Steel Chassis F150 throw the gauntlet at the perceptions of US truck buyers quite clearly.
Ford wants truck buyers to understand what F150 really means -
* LESS vehicle WEIGHT = MORE CARRY + TOW CAPACITY vs any other ‘1/2 ton’ competitor.
* 100 patents validate Ford F150’s ‘next-gen / truck-of-the-future’ / ‘future-of-tough’ claims.
* F150 still has ‘Muscle and Tough’ and now ‘Brains’, too.
* With today’s cheap gas,......FUEL ECONOMY? Uh, we can discuss later.
And Look! EVERY ‘work truck’ visual cliche ANY ad agency has EVER invoked says Ford F150 is truck-serious.
Disclaimer - Ford invited me to one of their F150 Launch Events for dealership training and customer test drives, which for me was better than the PR pony-shows, because I got to see exactly how Ford was teaching their dealer sales teams to sell. AND as an ex-auto industry insider - Ford and Toyota in my early career days - it was interesting to see / hear what’s changed and how much hasn’t in the truck biz, after all these years.
Disclaimer 2 - This post is NOT a Ford infomercial. I’m sharing the Ford ads and info / data to show you how the story is being told - The claims being made, the product positioning.
So that in the comments, YOU can discuss if you think F150 will succeed vs the Competition and vs current perceptions of truck-construction, truck-tough creds, and truck ownership.
In my opinion, HERE’S THE KEY POINT to F150 -
Ford wants buyers to equate aluminum light weight to work truck benefits.....
BUT, ‘Murican Truck Buyers have been fed decades of -
* ‘The only good truck is a big heavy-duty iron and steel behemoth; Big body, Big frame, Big wheels, Bigger grille, Sledgehammer-worthy metals.
* Instead, Ford is building its new trucks out of ALUMINUM. Fear is that most truckers think -
“Isn’t that the stuff the Missus wraps the Thanksgiving Turkey in?”
And “I drink my beer out of bottles, because I can’t stand those wussy ALUNIMINIMUM cans”.
SO, THE QUESTION IS -
Will the the American truck-buying public buy the new Ford F150?
PS - The industry answer is “Yes. Ford will make them buy - One way or another”.
So, the real question IS - ‘How many rebate / incentive dollars will Ford need to spend per vehicle to make F150 sell? And how much in Ford profits will it cost the company?
* If you check into the Ford F150 website, it seems Incentive Offers are already out there.
SOME BACKGROUND FACTS [before you answer IF truckers will buy F150]
So, there’s more than just 1 TV spot.......
Plus, a ‘Tough Science’ / ‘Tough Tests’ series of videos......and more.
[OK, enough! Ford’s ad spend is designed to burn all this into your retinas without my help. I’ll let them put earn their Marketing ROI without further pimping of their ad campaign.]
2] Ford Truck means EVERYTHING to FoMoCo’s bottomline.
* Auto analysts peg the variable margin [the contribution to profits] on each Ford F-series truck in the range of $8,000 to $10,000.
* Compare that to $2,500 in average contribution for each North America vehicle sold and it’s easy to see that trucks contribute an outsized share of Ford’s overall profitability.
* Now, do the multiplication math of 750,000-ish F-series truck sales per year x the $ margin contribution PNVS [Per New Vehicle Sold] = Ca-Ching for Ford! And that’s not the name of the guy running Ford China, that’s Ford profits.
3] Thanks to the +50% drop in Oil Prices, EcoBoost fuel savings claims in the advertising are out, for now.
* But, the fuel economy issue is NOT going away.
* Tough new fuel-economy laws require OEM’s to virtually double their fleetwide average to 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025. And the first ‘milepost’ is 34.1 mpg fleetwide by 2016.
* And owners are certain to be concerned about the costs to insure aluminum trucks, if the repair process is more complex / costly.
6] But, repairs should NOT be more expensive.
* Ford showed us how the redesign of their truck introduced a more modular construction. So, crash repair requires less tearing into the structure of F150. Fixes will be more ‘plug-and-play’ with parts for the 2015 F150. The intent is to reduce labor time, and by extension, repair costs.
8] [Enough $ talk, back to the Specs.] F150 aluminum is NOT beer can aluminum.
* Ford showed us THIS image of the where the type of aluminum alloy they are using is already in use in ‘get tough’ situations.
You’ll hear about ‘Military-Grade’ aluminum. A LOT.
Plus, the gauge of the metal is thicker vs the older steel body sheeting.
Plus plus, Ford secretly raced an aluminum F150, camo’ed as a 2014 truck at the Baja 1000. And Ford used the opportunity to further validate that smaller, yet still powerful, EcoBoost engines are right for full-size truck work.
9] The frame is still steel and tougher than ever. Only the body is aluminum.
10] The 2015 F150 drives, powers, pulls, and ‘picks things up’ like a ‘real truck’, just more refined, more accomplished, more polished. But, not less tough.
My driving experience was limited in time and to a parking lot slalom course. So, a full test is needed. BUT, even with only a few runs, I could tell that ....
* All the EcoBoost engines and F150 power choices perform really strongly.
* The F150 chassis is stable with good handling. Cornering gets done with minor platform-pitch, good mid-corner grip, managable understeer, and very readable steering feedback.
* F150 is a festival of technology and ergonomic/ operating / convenience features, so that except for the fact I had to take a running start and a Fosbury Flop to get UP into this big new F150, the amenities and appointments make this thing feel like a CAR, to me.
PS - I HATE that. Truck should feel like truck!
All this Truck ‘tough talk’ and ‘tough guys owning trucks’ advertising imagery conflicts with the sensations my ass and eyes give me - I’m wussing down the road in a big car.......
Where’s my truck? !!
Now, I get it. You’re thinking, I may not be the right guy to deliver any perspectives on trucks. “Leo is not a truck guy” [I tried to tell Toyota that when they promoted me to Truck Advertising Manager long ago. But, hey ‘short not stupid’. I knew enough to put Ivan Stewart in a Toyota truck ad. However, there was that T100-outrunning-a-boulder TV commercial because some exec took his kids to an Indiana Jones flick and got a ‘big idea’ for the campaign.......].
And I am not suggesting truck manufacturers, like Ford, give up all the comfort / convenience options and amenities truck owners clearly want.....
I’m just saying any truck - every truck - should never loose that raw, hand-tool feel that defines ‘function’, ‘power’, ‘tough’ and......’T-R-U-C-K’.
SO, WHAT’S THE BOTTOM-LINE?
2015 Ford F150 IS a real truck, by today’s definition - even with its ‘vodoo’ aluminum.
And F150 contruction and technology will push that definition ahead into the future. Heck, GM and FCA are already working on their aluminum vehicles [no matter what they publicly say].
But, the real answer to how ON-target the 2015 Ford F150 is.......will be found in how well this aluminum-bodied truck endures over time.
* Does the bonded, glued, and welded aluminum contruction really hold up?
* Are operating, maintenance, repair, insurance costs under control or being pushed to the point of ownership frustration?
* Has Ford really done its aluminum homework and testing to inspire buyer confidence?
* Will the facts win the day for Ford F150? Or will old-school perceptions and ingrained beliefs steeped in tradition hold sway and keep truck technology relegated to..... New casting methods to produce an even bigger front grille.
PS - The 2015 Ford F150 has a really BIG grille.