Why Ford Can't Yet Call the Aluminum F-150 a Success

Feb 07, 2015 02:00 PM EST | Jordan Ecarma

Has Ford's $1 billion bet on an aluminum-bodied F-150 pickup paid off?

The automaker is already hailing the revamp of its best-selling model as a success, but the truth won't be known for months, said a report from Automotive News.

Ford's move to spend more than $1 billion retrofitting facilities to give its No. 1 model an aluminum frame was a high-stakes decision: F-series pickups have been the best-selling vehicles in the country for 37 years.

"Were we recognizing that it was a risk? Sure," CEO Mark Fields told the Associated Press last year. "But it was a very calculated and informed risk that gave us the confidence that we were going to get this done."

The new trucks are "flying off the lots," Bob Shanks, Ford's chief financial officer, said last week, adding that "pricing is very healthy." The F-150 was also recognized for its innovation at the Washington Auto Show earlier this month.  

Ford touted a decision to add 1,550 employees to its workforce this week as evidence of the F-150's popularity, citing "stronger than expected demand." Of the new jobs, 900 workers will join Ford's truck plant in Kansas City and the rest will be divided among three stamping, auto parts and axle plants near Detroit, according to Reuters.

But several factors still in play mean that Ford won't be able to confirm the F-150's success until the late summer. Ford hasn't yet completed retooling its Kansas City plant to produce the newly aluminum F-150 estimated to be 700 pounds lighter than its predecessor.

Automotive News additionally points out that rapid sales for the F-150 currently reflect a small supply of the trucks since dealers won't have their full stocks of the model until spring.

The new F-150 last month accounted for 18 percent of overall F-150 lineup sales.

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