No Compromises: Ford's Eric Peterson Is Bullish on Aluminum and the 2015 F-150

Nov 13, 2014 11:00 AM EST | Jeff Jablansky

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Aluminum seems to be scaring and exciting some people.

It's new, and any time you bring out something new, people ask questions about it. The main thing is that it's new, and people are curious. We thought there would be more questions about [aluminum] than there were. Once we revealed it at the [Detroit] auto show last year, most customers-truck people-got it. It was how you could give more towing, capability, and better fuel [economy] without compromising anything else. I think the reason that truck customers got it more than others may have is because they see it in their industries today: their ladders, their flashlights, their bigger trucks, their airplanes. It's not new to them. They get that. As long as you've tested it out and validated it, they feel more confident and get the concept. It's very logical. There are fewer concerns about it than you may think.

Are F-150 sales down because of the use of aluminum, as some stories are reporting?

They're unrelated, 100 percent. What's happening is that we're changing over our plants for the new truck, and therefore we haven't produced as many this year, and won't sell as many. We knew that going in. It's one of the reasons we had the highest transaction prices and the lowest incentives in the industry, with technically the oldest truck. It's a testament to our leadership on the truck side.

And then there are people who are investing in aluminum.

It's interesting-that's up to individual investors. Certainly, there may be a trend. The next-generation Super Duty will have aluminum in it as well, and there's a trend on our side for pickup trucks. We'll have to see what the rest of the industry does.

Which export markets will receive the new F-150?

It'll be in the Middle East and South America. A lot of other markets already have Ranger, so that fits them, because of the size of the truck in their markets. I think it's 46 countries [where] we'll export the truck.

Europe?

Not that I can think of. Primarily South America, Caribbean, Middle East-those are the primary markets.

What are you learning from the van side?

The great part about a global company is what's made us a leader in productivity, trucks, and "Built Ford Tough" vehicles is choice: making sure that customers have the right choice to get the job done. We've benefited from what's gone on in Europe with Transit, and Transit has benefited from with what's going on with F-Series in the U.S. If you keep the customer focus, which is [where] we think we do a good job, you can really learn from the customer.

Why do some models have a 4A setting on the four-wheel drive selector?

[That's] 4-Auto. It's on the higher-end trucks. It's a different transmission system that allows more of an all-wheel drive. It's just a different selection point. This has a more traditional four-wheel-drive system, so all four wheels, as opposed to an optimized all-wheel drive system that is 4-Auto.

Are you going to do an off-road special again?

Our FX4 is an off-road package now. It used to be a series, and now it's a true off-road package: skid plate, tuned shocks, hill-descent control. It's a true off-road package.

Any Raptor news ahead?

Hang tight. Raptor's been a big success, and we'll have more news about Raptor soon.

Would a diesel fit under the F-150's hood?

Package space? We have the smartest engineers on the planet. We could find the package space for a different-sized motor. If you look under the hood with the 2.7[-liter four-cylinder engine], there's a ton of extra space. The thing about diesel is that we think the light-weighting concept touches every customer. That's the "wow." Every customer benefits, and not just one powertrain option. That's why we think that a $500 [upcharge] for an EcoBoost engine that's going to get great fuel [economy] and tow 8500 pounds is the right choice for a customer. You want to be able to get 22-5 in payload out of a smaller engine and not compromise payload, which sometimes you get from a heavier diesel. And then there's the cost: $4500 for a diesel engine over a base motor is significant, plus a $0.30-0.60 premium in fuel. It's something we struggle with, trying to find a space for diesel. There's a lot of demand and want for diesel, but it's a tough business case when you get down to it. Ram's certainly got some space for it in the market, but we're focused on our strategy, which is better fuel [economy], capability and performance across the board.

How many years will this body style last?

We're already planning and looking at things, but if you look back, the last truck was a 2009, so [it lasted] six model years.

Are you looking at any hybrid or electric options?

What we look at is every possible option in the marketplace. We're trying to bring the right solution to the customers at the right time when it's the right business equation.

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