Remember this ad: GM Silverado Steel vs F-150 Aluminum (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HVOh9EzftbY).
Extended repair times, significant cost premiums, and specialty equipment.
Who followed us?
Doubling the size of the "info" screen will be icing on the cupcake and retain all previous owners who will now feel connected (as they sleep in the cab).
Trucks are the last bastion of loyalty at Ford because that the only product left.
Everyone comfortable with Launch?
Is that a RAM in my rear view mirror?
DETROIT — The F-150 redesign that Ford Motor Co. plans to unveil this week isn't as risky as the switch to an aluminum body for the current generation. But the new pickup nonetheless will determine the automaker's fortunes in a segment that's increasingly volatile and soon to be invaded by electric vehicle makers.
The gamble Ford took in switching to a more expensive material on its most important vehicle has largely paid off, though perhaps less conspicuously than Ford had hoped.
Since the pickup was redesigned in 2014, sales, market share and average transaction prices have risen, and studies have shown that repair and insurance costs — a major question mark at launch — have largely remained flat.
The rest of the industry, however, declined to follow Ford's aluminum gambit, choosing other routes to reduce weight and improve fuel efficiency.
Still, Ford sold more pickups in 2018 than any other year besides 2001 and 2004. It ended 2018 with its biggest-ever lead over the No. 2 vehicle and comfortably retained its crown last year, even as Fiat Chrysler's Ram leapfrogged the Chevrolet Silverado.
In the 14th-generation F-150, scheduled to go on sale this year, Ford faces a new challenge: launch a redesigned model without the headline-grabbing attention or industry-rattling impact of a wholesale material switch while continuing to pace an intensely competitive field.
"We're looking at every inch of the truck as we come out with the next generation," Todd Eckert, Ford's truck group marketing manager, told Automotive News.
"We still see the need for capability, for durability and reliability. People are still buying trucks for purpose-built reasons. We know we need to continue to deliver for our customers."
The rollout, one of a series of high-profile product introductions for Ford in the coming months, takes on even greater importance for a company trying to overcome launch issues that dinged profits in 2019.
A shaky introduction of its bestselling product would be devastating for a leadership team that has largely failed to impress Wall Street since CEO Jim Hackett took over in 2017.
The coronavirus pandemic brings added urgency to deliver a hit. While overall industry sales have fallen, sales of full-size pickups remain robust, and the Detroit 3 likely will rely on them to carry more of the profit burden in the coming years.
"It just seems the market for pickups is as strong today as it's ever been, despite so many other circumstances that could lead to fewer sales," said Karl Brauer, executive publisher of Kelley Blue Book.
"The domestic automakers are positioned to weather this economic storm relatively well, but only if they can continue to cash in on truck sales."
While the biggest change for the current-generation F-150 involved the outside, the upcoming model will focus on the interior. Executives have stressed the importance of connectivity in the new F-150, and the pickup is expected to be among the first products to feature the next-generation Sync infotainment system, which allows over-the-air software updates.
It will come with a larger center touch screen, according to spy photos, piggybacking off the success Ram had with its technology last year.
The F-150 also has a lay-flat passenger seat for sleeping, according to a report from Reuters last week that likened it to first-class cabins on some commercial airlines.
"It's all about incremental improvement," Stephanie Brinley, principal automotive analyst at IHS Markit, said in a statement. "They know how to do those things so well."
Eckert declined to discuss details of the upcoming vehicle but hinted at major changes to the interior.
"Customers are spending more and more time in their cabs," he said. "They're using them for work and recreation. We've always talked about continuous innovation as an important part of how we go to market. It's part of what we've done."
At the F-150's reveal on Thursday, June 25, Ford also is expected to show off a hybrid model that will serve as a mobile generator. Hackett told Automotive News last year that he hopes the hybrid can appeal to more customers.
"For certain jobs to be done, the gasoline engine and the diesel are better solutions," he said. "And so having that range of options for our customers is going to be a big advantage with that line."
Ford might need to educate traditional work-focused buyers who could equate electricity with less power. If done correctly, it could be an advantage. "There's definitely potential for them if they can change what a pickup owners' view of a hybrid is," Brinley said.
While Ford has dominated the pickup market since the early days of the Carter administration, this F-150 will enter a changing landscape.
Tesla logged hundreds of thousands of preorders for its upcoming Cybertruck, and a number of startups — including Rivian, Nikola and Bollinger — are planning electric pickups in a bid to upend the market and steal share from the Detroit 3. Ford and General Motors also plan battery-electric models.
"We are positioned for some upheaval in the truck world because of the new startup EV makers that are poised for launch in the coming years," said Brauer.
"None of them will take out the existing players even years after they come out, but over time they'll increase the pressure on the traditional truckmakers for innovation and capability."
The market for a gasoline-powered truck remains competitive. Nissan just freshened its Titan, and the Toyota Tundra, the oldest full-size pickup on the market, is expected to be redesigned next year.
The midsize segment also continues to expand, potentially siphoning off buyers who might be turned away by rising prices or the inability of full-size models to fit in their garages.
Ford's segment-leading status isn't a given, Brauer said, and could change if it doesn't deliver a compelling product.
Case in point: the Silverado's fall last year to No. 3 after a surge from the widely lauded Ram 1500.
"Trucks are thought of as the last bastion of brand loyalty, but I don't think customers are as brand loyal as they were 20 years ago," he said. "The pressure is as high or higher than it's ever been on OEMs to maintain desirability and competitiveness or risk losing sales and market share."