Ford, International to Build Chassis

NEWS that Ford and Navistar have formed a joint venture to develop medium-duty trucks highlighted the announcements at the Ford chassis session at NTEA.

“If you put our trucks side by side, they already are very similar — at least underneath the sheet metal,” one spokesman said. “It only makes sense that we would team up to achieve some efficiencies.”

News of the joint venture between Ford and Navistar International had just been announced when the NTEA convention was held.

Under the joint venture, Ford and Navistar plan to combine forces to build commercial trucks, beginning with Class 6 and 7 chassis cabs. The joint venture also will include a commercial truck service parts program and a commitment to evaluate increased cooperation in the development of diesel engines.

The trucks that are to be jointly developed are to be marketed under the Navistar name in Mexico and under the Ford name elsewhere in North America. The brands will share a common chassis but will have distinct sheet metal. Dealer relations will remain unchanged, with Ford dealers responsible for Ford trucks and Navistar dealers selling and servicing the International brand.

“The purpose of the joint venture is to grow our overall commercial truck business, starting with our strengthened commitment in Class 6 and 7 trucks,” said Mark Zolna, F-Series Super Duty chassis cab marketing plans manager. “The joint venture also will strengthen the partnership we have with Navistar on diesel truck engines.”

Zolna said the joint venture will lead to the introduction of more truck products in a shorter period of time.

“Customers will find one-stop shopping for all their commercial truck needs up through Class 7,” Zolna said. “With the new truck, Ford and its dealers will be able to offer and service a much wider array of products to fit customer needs.”

The joint venture is expected to produce more CAs and wheelbases, more powertrain options, more chassis, and faster response to the market, Zolna said.

Development of the common chassis is progressing rapidly. By this summer, a limited number of body builders will be invited to view a prototype. They will be asked in particular to identify packaging issues — areas of potential conflict with truck equipment installations — early in the process. By 2002, the chassis should be ready for conventional measuring sessions, according to Ford's Dave Tarrant.

“We want to make certain early on that this chassis will be compatible with truck equipment installations,” Tarrant said.

F-650/750 News

Zolna provided insight into the ordering trends of the F-650/750. Among the statistics he presented:

  • The F-650 represents 77% of production. The F-750 dropped from 29% of production in the 2000 model year to 23% in 2001. The new joint venture with International should help Ford increase F-750 penetration, however, Zolna said.

  • Super Cab and crew cab models are gaining popularity at the expense of regular cabs.

  • Almost half (48%) are now automatics, compared with 36% in the 2000 model year.

Among the changes Ford has made recently to the F-650/750 lineup was The Super CrewZer, which was launched as a 2001 model, with initial deliveries reaching dealers in December. Designed for pulling RV, horse, and race car trailers, the truck is forecast as a specialty vehicle with production expected to be less than 500 units per year.

Ford met with representatives of the IRS in December in an effort to clarify excise tax status of the Super CrewZer. The IRS considers the vehicle to be a tractor and subject to federal excise tax.

For the 2001 model year, Ford is including these changes to the F-650/750:

  • 10,000- and 23,000-lb gross axle weight ratings are now available.

  • New Cummins engines are being offered with ratings of 225, 240, 245, and 260 hp.

  • A 300-hp Caterpillar diesel can be ordered as a regular-production option.

The manufacturer plans to add these features during the second quarter of 2001:

  • Tilt steering wheel as standard equipment on chassis with 26,000- and 33,000-lb GVW ratings.

  • Additional axle ratios for trucks equipped with the Allison 2400 Series automatic transmission.

In the third and fourth quarter, Ford plans to introduce a new 22,000-lb GVWR low-profile chassis. The truck will have an 8.5" nonreinforced frame, tuned springs and shocks, improved braking, and a Caterpillar 3126 engine. Ford plans a July introduction.

2002 Models

For the 2002 model year, Ford will introduce a tractor package for the F-750, a rescue package for the Lo-Pro 22,000-lb GVWR Super Duty, and a Blue Bird school bus chassis.

The tractor package will be offered on the regular cab with 158" wheelbase and the Super Cab with 179" wheelbase. A choice of Caterpillar and Cummins diesels will be offered, along with Allison MD automatic transmissions and six- or seven-speed manuals.

The rescue package will be available on Lo-Pro models with a 108" CA and 22,000-lb GVW rating. It will include a Hendrickson air suspension, hydraulic brakes, 270-amp alternator, and 225-hp Cummins engine.

Ford did not provide details on the chassis cowl, opting instead to let Blue Bird make the announcement at the school bus manufacturer's dealer meeting in April.

On the Lighter Side

Ford's Tom Cavanaugh updated the lighter side of the F-Series lineup, from the F-250 to the F-550. These changes include:

  • Adjustable foot pedals will be offered for trucks equipped with automatic transmissions.

  • Trailer tow mirrors — optional on pickups and standard on chassis cabs — will be able to fold forward.

  • A six-speed manual transmission replaces the five-speed manual on 5.3-liter and 6.8-liter engines.

  • The F-450/550 will be offered as a Super Cab model with a 60" CA.

  • A 19.5" traction tire will be offered on the F-450/550.

  • Expanded fuel capacity of 59 gallons will be available on chassis cabs equipped with diesel engines. The capacity comes from a 40-gallon aft-of-axle tank and a 19-gallon midship tank. It will have dual fuel fills.

Ford has improved quality and availability of the F-Series, Cavanaugh reported. He listed several quality-related statistics, including a 54% improvement since 1999 in the number of repairs per 1,000 units.

The component restrictions that had limited deliveries of the F-Series Super Duty have been eliminated, Cavanaugh said. The only exception is two-tone paint schemes.

Larry Cooper brought NTEA members up to date on changes in the E-Series. For 2002, the things Ford will make standard on the E-Series:

  • Tilt steering wheel

  • Speed control with backlit switches

  • Vinyl floor covering. As an option, customers may choose to delete the floor covering.

  • Improved noise, vibration, and harshness performance through extensive body sealing.

  • New 4.56 limited slip axle on the 5.4-liter NGV and 6.8-liter E-450 cutaway

  • New dome light on/off switch at the rear door

New performance features include:

  • Caliper shield protects against stone pecking
  • A turbine-type fuel pump replaces the rotor design
  • New E-coating on frames
  • New dual idler bearings for the 7.3-liter diesel
  • Front GAWR is now 4,600 pounds

An E-550 cutaway will be introduced midway through the 2002 model year, Cooper said. The vehicle will offer GVW ratings of 17,500 and 19,000 pounds. Ford plans to conduct measuring sessions for the truck body and equipment industry in mid-July.

Engineering Changes

Doug Smith, supervisor of Ford's Modified Vehicle Engineering Ship-Thru Section, reported on changes in his area, particularly regarding the installation of high rail equipment.

With the introduction of the Super Duty, rail adaptive upfits became more difficult to do because of the wider stance of the vehicles and the broader range of the trucks, Smith said. Working with three NTEA member companies and high-rail manufacturers, Ford developed a program to make the installation of this equipment permissible from Ford's perspective.

Ford tested a wide range of pickups and chassis cabs up to the F-550, evaluating brake performance, ride and handling, airbag deployment, and FMVSS 212, 219, and 301 compliance when these vehicles had high rail equipment installed.

The program involved NTEA suppliers, Ford, and Ford modification centers, Smith said. Based on the results of the testing, Ford will send representatives from its Modified Vehicle Engineering department to conduct on-site assessments of ship-through companies to ensure that the equipment is installed in a way that meets all criteria.

A spin-off of the project involves guidelines for installing brush guards and winches. A Modified Vehicle Engineering technical bulletin is now available to provide guidance in installing this equipment.

More Information

Ford has changed its policy regarding the installation of belt-driven hydraulic pumps on its recently introduced Triton engines. Spider brackets no longer will be required when installing clutch pumps of five horsepower or more on the Triton 5.4-liter and 6.8-liter gasoline engines. See Ford QVM Bulletin #Q-62 for details.

Ford provided several ways that truck equipment distributors could receive additional information: the hotline, (877) 840-4338; by fax (313) 594-2633; e-mail, [email protected]; and its web site, www.fleet.ford.com/truckbbas.

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