Forget the high-horsepower sports cars; the most important introduction at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit was the new 2015 F-150 pickup.
With it, Ford is gambling mightily that light makes right -- and that its large, loyal customer base will approve.
The automaker has ditched the traditional use of steel for the truck's cab and bed and replaced it with aluminum in a bid to significantly reduce the F-150's weight and thus improve its fuel economy.
Now entering its 13th generation, the F-150 has been the United States' bestselling vehicle for 32 consecutive years -- more than 750,000 were sold last year -- and the top-selling truck for 37 years. In Canada, Ford sold more than 100,000 F-Series last year, and it has been the bestselling pickup here for 48 years.
"F-150 is well known for being 'Built Ford Tough.' Now, it is both tough and smart," Mark Fields, Ford's chief operating officer said. "The all-new F-150 redefines the future of trucks."
In designing the new F-150, Ford engineers improved the truck's boxed ladder frame, using more high-strength steel than ever -- making it stronger and lighter. High-strength, military-grade aluminum alloys of the type found in aerospace and other industries are used throughout the F-150 body for the first time, improving dent and ding resistance and also saving weight.
Overall, some 318 kilograms have been shaved, which will allow the pickup to tow and haul more and accelerate quicker and stop shorter, all with better fuel economy.
A range of four engines will power the new F-150, starting with a new 2.7-litre EcoBoost V6 with standard auto start/stop and a 3.5L V6 with twin independent variable camshaft timing. They will join the existing 3.5L EcoBoost and 5.0L Ti-VCT V8.
The pickup also debuts several new features, including 360-degree camera view and trailer hitch assist. The camera view uses exterior cameras to create a bird's-eye view of the truck to assist with parking and manoeuvring in tight spots. The trailer hitch assist has a rear-view camera that adds a dynamic line based on steering wheel angle in the display to help line up truck and trailer without requiring a spotter or having to get out of the vehicle.
There's also a remote tailgate, allowing for the tailgate to be locked, unlocked and released with the key. The tailgate is also damped, dropping down, hands-free, to a flat position when opened.
-- Postmedia Network Inc. 2014