Ford gives peek at fuel-economy push with F-150 concept

Ford atlas concept truck

Boosting fuel economy in trucks is particularly challenging because they are large and must be capable of towing heavy loads. Using hybrid and electric car technology on these models remains extremely costly.

While Ford said the next F-150 would be lighter than the outgoing version, executives stopped short of specifying the kinds of materials or weight savings targeted for the new F-150. Raj Nair, head of global product development, said Ford is exploring the use of lightweight materials like high-strength steel, aluminum and carbon fiber across its lineup.

In its F-150 overhaul, Ford is looking to shave an average of 700 to 750 pounds from each vehicle through extensive use of aluminum as well as a redesign of components including brakes and axles, people familiar with the matter have said.

"Part of our strategy is to have all of our vehicles go on a diet in terms of weight," Chief Operating Officer Mark Fields said on the sidelines of the Detroit auto show on Tuesday.

DIVERGING PATHS

The F-series and sport-utility derivatives such as the Expedition account for more than 90 percent of Ford's global profit, according to Morgan Stanley auto analyst Adam Jonas.

Analysts say the segment is due for a rebound this year as the U.S. housing market rallies. Ford's decision to reveal the upcoming pickup at the auto show 18 months before it hits the market reflects the highly competitive nature of the lucrative truck market.

Ford's U.S. rivals, GM and Chrysler Group LLC, showcased new trucks at the show as well. GM will begin selling a new Chevrolet Silverado and Colorado, considered GM's most crucial launches since its 2009 bankruptcy.

GM and Ford are fierce competitors in the full-size pickup segment, which accounted for about 11 percent of the U.S. auto market last year and will grow increasingly competitive as more truck owners look to replace their vehicles.

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