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[video] Is the New Ford F-150 Tinfoil on Wheels?

Bret Kenwell

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- On Monday, I saw the next generation of Ford's  F-Series pickup truck. It has been the top-selling vehicle in the U.S. for 32 consecutive years. So why change it if it ain't broke?

Simple. Because Ford can make it better. 

Right off the bat I want to show a video that does an incredible job introducing the new vehicle. Below is an interview with Pete Reyes, the chief engineer of the F-150 (compliments of WXYZ Detroit):


Reyes has worked at Ford for 27 years, most of them in product development. The man slammed down the question, Is the new F-150 tinfoil on wheels? with a resounding, No!

The company will still use a high strength steel for the vehicle's frame, but has replaced the cab, body and cargo bed with a high-grade aluminum alloy. The change in metals will allow for the pickup truck to tow and haul more, accelerate and brake faster and have vastly improved fuel economy.

Some may question the integrity of the new body and replacement costs of using aluminum rather than steel and assume the product is less durable.

But Reyes says the aluminum Ford is using is a high-grade alloy, the kind used for commercial aircrafts and in the military. Regarding its strength, he said, "Some of the alloys we heat-treat after you form the part, and they come out stronger than the steels we use today." 

That sounds pretty damn good if you ask me. 

The shift to aluminum will lower the vehicle's weight by 700 pounds, allowing the 2015 F-Series to achieve better fuel efficiency without sacrificing performance. 

Jack Narad, editorial director for Kelley Blue Book, said, "[Trucks] take bangs and dings and a lot of hard use. We'll have to see how the use of lightweight aluminum plays out in the field." 

That kind of skepticism is expected, especially when Ford is making such a big jump. 

"The company planted prototype F-150s with three companies - in mining, construction and power - for two years without revealing they were aluminum. The companies didn't notice a difference," Reyes told the Associated Press.

The truck could be a hit, especially in the the Midwest and Northeast, where harsh winters and salt-laced roads take a toll on a vehicle's armor. Aluminum doesn't have that terrible red rust look like many other vehicles on the road, simply because aluminum doesn't rust.

So, basically, what I'm hearing is that the F-Series will be lighter, faster, stronger, more fuel efficient and won't rust. Home run, right? 

Not so fast. Ford could encounter several obstacles. 

Switching production from the old model to the new model could be tricky. But that's a one-time event.

I worry about two things the most: the pricing and supply of aluminum, and consumer perception. So far, it seems like people are digging the new ride. But those hardcore truck fellas might have a tough time turning in their old steel whips for a lightweight truck. 

Fluctuating aluminum prices could hinder Ford's margins, while supply issues could choke production. Tight supply and higher aluminum prices could be a deadly combo. Ford would fail to meet demand from its customers, while getting nailed on higher production costs. 

But these are unknowns. There's always risk. Assuming the aluminum is as high of quality as it sounds, the customers will likely come in droves. 

It was a risk changing the best-selling U.S. vehicle, but as Reyes put it, "Doing nothing or not enough was a bigger risk." 

At the time of publication, the author was long shares of Ford.

This article represents the opinion of a contributor and not necessarily that of TheStreet or its editorial staff.

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