The government is increasingly clamping down on automakers to make cars more fuel efficient, with the Obama administration instituting the most ramped up increases in CAFE standards (Corporate Average Fuel Economy) in decades. This has automakers looking for ways to reduce the fuel consumption of their vehicles, and one of those is to reduce weight.
With the Ford F-series being the best selling vehicle in North America for over 30 years, Ford has a lot on their shoulders to not only get the truck right, but to also vastly improve the truck’s fuel economy since it is the company’s number one selling product.
The upcoming F-150 will feature a first of it’s kind in the full size truck segment aluminum body construction. This includes the most abused area of any pickup, the bed. While some detractors have scoffed at the idea of an aluminum pickup, the military and many other manufacturers have been using aluminum to construct sturdy vehicles for decades.
Ford recently revealed that they’ve been performing blind durability testing under real world conditions with six F-150s that were secretly outfitted with aluminum beds. In 2011 these trucks were sent to three long-time Ford fleet customers across the USA for real world use, without the knowledge that the 2011 model trucks they were using had prototype beds on them. This is the first of it’s kind testing that we’ve ever heard of within the auto industry.
The trucks were used for everything from surveying teams at a gold mine operation in Nevada, to line workers driving mountain roads to read meters or replace utility poles in North Carolina, and in by a construction operation for use at a hydro-electric dam in Pennsylvania and road construction in Alabama.
“This secret testing almost immediately yielded results and lessons we have rolled into the all-new F-150,” said Dennis Kansier a 2015 F-150 engineer. “For example, we made the cargo box floor thicker to improve strength, and we made modifications to the tailgate based on lessons we learned through customer usage.”
All of these trucks have been used in a real world work environment for thousands of miles, with the gold mine trucks reporting over 150,000 miles of driving so far. The prototype beds have proven extremely tough, and the lessons learned will benefit all 2015 F-150 owners.