Ford targets F-550/650 for sales boost

FORD is focusing on boosting its F-550/650 sales and expects its 2003 totals to improve over 2002, commercial truck sales and marketing director Joe Castelli said at the NTEA Truck Product Conference.

“This is probably one area of our business we need to grow,” he said, “and now that we've got the new truck, we anticipate we'll do better and probably beat last year's sales. In June, July, and August, we beat last year's sales.”

He said the goal with the E-Series is to equal or top last year's sales.

“The competition is not going to sit on their hands,” he said. “They're coming with new products and re-aligning their personnel, so they're coming after us. We're not getting complacent. We want to grow our business.”

John Tatge, assistant chief engineer, said the big change for 2004 is the all-new 6.0L Navistar diesel that replaces the 7.3L diesel. It comes with TorqShift five-speed transmission (standard on the 6.0L). The 4.6L engine replaces the 4.2L on the E-150/E-250 in both the van and wagon. The new Hankook LT245/75R16E tires replace Goodyear.

Other product changes for the 2004 model year:

  • LEVII Compliant (4.6L, 5.4L, and 6.8L) reduce evaporative emissions by 50%.

  • The transit plastic fuel tank option is no longer available.

  • Passenger side airbag delete is coupled with seat delete option.

  • E-250 124" wheelbase strip chassis model has been deleted.

  • Disc brakes and 16" tires are available on all E-150 models.

  • Remote keyless entry is available on cutaways.

  • Power trailer tow mirrors are available on cutaways with the ambulance prep package.

  • Battery saver feature is standard.

  • New instrument cluster with tachometer, two-setting trip odometer, accessory delay, and configurable battery saver.

  • The new 6.0L Powerstroke diesel has a production launch date of Jan 2, 2004. Power has been increased to 235 hp and torque rating to 440 ft-lb, while fuel economy has been improved by 3 mpg, and the NVH sound package has a 30 db reduction.

Super Duty

Mark Grueber, product marketing manager, discussed the new changes for F-250/F-550 Super Duty:

  • 60/40 Crew Cab rear load floor seat on XLT and Lariat with headrest.

  • Front bench seat recline on XL.

  • Wider opening Crew Cab rear doors (by five degrees) for improved ingress/egress.

  • RF remote entry keypad.

  • Revised appearance running boards.

  • 6.0L diesel with improved emissions.

  • Power sliding backlight.

  • Spare tire jack optional (together and separately) on Chassis Cabs.

  • Ambulance prep package has full function auxiliary idle control that replaces limited function auxiliary idle control. F-350 Chassis Cab includes max front GAWR springs.

Grueber listed these customer benefits for the 6.0L diesel engine: best-in-class pulling power with driver selected low-haul feature that provides 40% gradeability improvement and grade braking; improved driveability (20% better than 7.3L at 0-60 mph, 15% at 5-20 mph); improved fuel economy (10% over 7.3L); improved durability and reliability; refined noise and vibration characteristics; improved serviceability; and cleaner emissions.

He said the architecture includes: direct injected diesel engine; 90-degree bank angle; OHV with four valves per cylinder; turbocharged/charge air cooled; cast iron block and cylinder heads; stamped-damped steel oil pan; dramatic power and torque increases over 7.3L V8; electronic variable response turbocharger (EVRT).

He said there is improved serviceability with a cartridge oil filter that is easily removed from the engine, a water pump with no hose connections, accessible glow plugs; direct mount accessories; and 10% more efficient alternator.

Medium trucks

Dave Tarrant, chief engineer for medium truck and JV products, said Ford's new medium truck family is produced by a 50/50 joint venture between Ford and International, which is for product development and manufacturing only and is responsible for specialized products in Class 3-7.

He said the JV was formed in 2001, and they're now in production with products for Ford and International in a JV plant in Escobedo, Mexico. It includes the new F-650 and F-750 models and other products to be announced in the future.

Since last February, the following have been added: improved 6.0L Power Stroke engine; Cummins ISB engine family; Caterpillar C7 ACERT engine family; Crew Cab models; phasing in Allison vocational series transmissions as they become available; and 13.2K front axle system.

To be added by the end of 2003: revised air suspension dump valve; Cummins engines features; a 25-gallon shallow fuel tank/small battery box package that provides 70 gallons of fuel in high ground clearance package with Clean CA on regular cab; kick-up frame Pro Loader model; miscellaneous options such as hour meter, power parking brake, air ride passenger seat; new clutch actuation system, and 10-speed manual transmissions.

He said the Pro Loader model will reduce the height an additional 2" and will make the frame height the same as an F-550 for body mounting and loading purposes.

“So literally, the customer will be able to make a choice between F-550 architecture and Pro Loader architecture, and won't make any compromises in terms of the body-mounting area,” he said.

Tarrant said Ford's strategy is beginning to show results: July was the best sales month in 25 months, with Ford's share up substantially; and there was new dealer and customer interest that hadn't been seen since 1997, including important fleet sales.

Alternative fuel vehicles

Bruce Gordon, alternative fuel vehicles director, introduced the AFV CNG/LPG lineup, saying it is environmentally friendly, has OEM quality, is economical, and presents a positive corporate image.

He said the new MT insures that full-line reach is especially strong in the 18,000-33,000 GVW range. Other new Blue Diamond products are under development, and these new vehicles will be carefully designed to be “body-builder friendly,” he said.

He said they are environmentally friendly because: natural gas burns cleaner than gasoline; all 2004 Ford E-Series NGVs are certified to Ultra Low Emission Vehicle (ULEV) or better standards (the E-250/350 van/wagons are certified to SULEVII, while the E-450 Cutaway is certified to ULEV); Ford NGVs emit less greenhouse gases.

Regarding OEM quality, he said there has been rigorous development and testing, with NGV required to meet the same test specifications that Ford requires of its gasoline models. An Extended Service Plan (ESP) is offered, with service parts readily available, and in-house warranty certification is available.

He said the vehicles are economical because natural gas costs up to 40% less than gasoline and diesel. Federal incentives include potential 2003 CLEAR ACT legislation, tax credits for vehicle acquisition, fuel infrastructure development, and the sale of retail fuel.

Illinois, Texas, and New York reimburse the customer 80% of the incremental costs, he said, with the California Energy Commission giving up to a $3,000 incentive credit for dedicated CNG vehicles.

He said the 2004 E-Series Cutaway Dedicated NGV has these applications: metro transit vehicle, shuttle for hotel/parking/rental car, school bus, and parcel delivery vehicle.

It has a 5.4L natural gas engine, 225 hp, and torque of 325 ft-lb, with wheelbases of 176" and 158", dual rear wheels, and a GVW of 14,050 lb.

Special vehicle engineering

Bill Chew, supervisor of applications engineering for truck special vehicle engineering, said the F-Super Duty TorqShift transmission has key enhancements over the old 4R100 transmission: PTO drive gear torque has been increased from 170 ft-lb to 250 ft-lb; PTO gear is now powered in all forward and reverse gears, including overdrive; and PTO memory in the PCM is no longer affected by battery disconnect.

Chew said the PTO gear activates more quickly, driven directly by the torque converter instead of being dependent on the coast clutch.

He added that PTO sales have increased by over 20% with the new TorqShift transmission.

He said the Freestar Cargo Van first became available in December, and that dimensional information is in the 2004 Body Builder Layout book. The Cargo Van prep package deletes the second- and third-row seats and rear interior trim, and provides a rubber floor mat in the rear in lieu of carpet. The load floor panel covers the third-row seat.

Electrical system changes for the 2004 model year E-Series: modified vehicle wiring kit; a new eight-pin connector for rear body/tail lights (mating pit-tail to be included in dunnage); and a new sketch provided with bulletin and included in Body Builder Layout book.

Chew said CAD data is available in .dwg and .lgs files in front, rear, side, and top views for the F-Super Duty Chassis Cabs, E-Series Cutaways and Chassis Cabs, E-Series -Vans, F-150, F-250 and F-350 pickups, and F-650/F-750 models.

Lease program

Jesse Widmayer, municipal marketing coordinator, gave a rundown of the Municipal Lease Purchase Program.

He said it provides for equipment to be obtained immediately, with the cost spread over several years; equipment can be owned at term end for a purchase option; financing is structured over the useful life of the equipment; and there are tax-exempt rates for municipalities.

He said it is not a lease, there are no mileage restrictions, no penalties for wear and tear, no security deposit, no hidden charges, and no special return provisions.

Those eligible include: state and local governments, counties, towns and townships, public school districts, public colleges and universities, municipal airports, and Indian tribes.

Eligible equipment includes: medium- and heavy-duty truck lines; police and administration vehicles; school buses, ambulances, and fire trucks; street sweepers, garbage trucks, and construction equipment.

He said municipal lease customer benefits include: more product for the budget dollars; non-appropriation clause (financing is considered a current liability); special payment plans are available and Ford works within the budget; additional equipment and warranties may be included; and older fleet vehicles that carry high maintenance costs can be replaced.

Vendor benefits include: up to a 1% participation rate is available per transaction; there is no charge back for an early payoff; Ford Credit will finance up to 100% of the vendor's equipment cost; and there is easy transaction/paperwork flow.

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