By Paul Rachwal
Friday, Jul 27th, 2012 @ 11:27 am
 
There has been a recent report that Ford's next-generation F-150 pickup truck will make heavy use of aluminum components and body panels in order to lose as much as 700lbs on some variations. Ford spokespeople, however, while admitting that the automaker is looking at various ways to improve fuel efficiency and overall performance, said it's too early for such a bold move.

Stumbling blocks include cost, manufacturing challenges, and overcoming consumer preconceptions that an aluminum construction will make the trucks less tough. The move would certainly be revolutionary, as it would represent about a 15 percent reduction in overall weight. Ford and other manufacturers are facing more stringent CAFE standards by 2020, where a maker's average fuel economy across its range of vehicles needs to be 35mpg, and a much lighter F-150, a perennial bestseller, would certainly help meet them.

Saving 800lbs from a 2008 full-size truck would cost about $1.50 to $2 per pound, according to a study from consulting firm Ducker Worldwide. Doing so in a new F-150 is estimated by Richard Schultz, the managing director of metals at Ducker, to be $1,500, according to a Wall Street Journal report. Consumers may not be willing to pay such a premium, or a larger one considering the need for profit.

Ford may also be considering a smaller truck, likely called the F-100, an engineer close to the truck plant's said.