Ford’s F-150 pickup truck line for the 2015 model year reportedly will be significantly changed, though Ford is remaining mum on the specifics leading up to the North American International Auto Show Jan. 18-26.
Reports that the F-150 will feature an all-aluminum body to help lighten the vehicle and thus boost fuel economy, along with the addition of a smaller 2.7-liter version of Ford’s popular V6 EcoBoost gasoline engine, are being neither confirmed nor denied by the OEM at this time.
“The stories that are out there are speculation at this point; it’s premature to discuss future products,” Mike Levine, a Ford spokesman, told Fleet Owner. “But we’ll have exciting news in Detroit.”
The F-150 is only part of the “news” Ford plans to discuss in January as the OEM already has announced plans to launch 23 new vehicles in 2014, along with opening three more manufacturing facilities and add more than 5,000 new jobs in the U.S. alone.
“Next year, we are embarking on our most ambitious global launch year ever to meet customer demand for our products around the world,” noted Raj Nair, group vice president for Ford’s global product development team earlier this month. “We are investing even more through our One Ford plan to serve more customers, in more segments – and deliver profitable growth.”
Ford said it is on pace to produce 6 million vehicles in 2013, with the Ford Focus compact car on track to hit 1.1 million in sales, the Ford Escape compact sport utility vehicle (SUV) on track to exceed sales of 271,000 units, and the Ford F-Series expected to pass the sales mark of 730,000 units in 2013.
Nair noted that Ford’s gains in the small utility segment is critical as, globally, utilities are expected to grow at almost twice the rate of the overall industry during the next five years.
For 2014, Ford is planning to launch 16 new vehicles in North America alone, including: a new Ford Mustang, Ford Transit Connect, Ford Transit and Lincoln MKC. In all, Ford expects to have about three times the number of product launches next year in North America than in 2013.
“We saw unprecedented growth in the U.S. this year, especially in the midsize and utility segments,” said Joe Hinrichs, Ford president of The Americas. “With the addition of 16 new products to our showroom, including Ford Mustang, our momentum continues.”
In addition to new vehicles, Ford plans to add to its EcoBoost engine family, with two new offerings in 2014 – a new 2.3-liter EcoBoost engine and one “soon to be named” the OEM said.
Other fuel efficiency enhancement technologies, such as Auto Start-Stop, also will be offered on more Ford vehicles in North America. The Auto Start-Stop feature in particular, currently available on Ford Fusion, will be added to the OEM’s highest-volume products – covering 70% percent of the company’s North America volume.
Similarly, after selling more than 80,000 hybrids through November 2013, Ford plans to add more than 400 new positions to its hybrid powertrain engineering team, including approximately 100 new hybrid and electrified vehicle engineers.
The OEM also said it plans to open three new manufacturing facilities outside of the U.S. in 2014 to support global demand for its vehicles – two in the Asia Pacific region and one in South America.
The Changan Ford Assembly Plant No. 3 and Changan Transmission Plant in Chongqing, China, as well as Camaçari Engine Plant in Brazil, are slated to open over the course of 2014, Ford said, with the new Chongqing Assembly Plant increasing the company’s production capacity in China by 300,000 units next year.
Ford said it also plans to hire more than 6,000 employees in Asia next year, the vast majority of them hourly employees. Similarly, in the U.S., Ford expects to create more than 5,000 new jobs, including 3,300 salaried positions, the largest hiring initiative since 2000. In the past two years, the company noted it’s created more than 14,000 jobs in North America alone.