Equipment World recently announced its 2015 Innovation Award Winners. One of the winners was the 2015 Ford F-150. The 2015 model's aluminum body was a result of the work of Bruno Barthelemy and his team at Ford, who were assigned the project some twenty years ago of building an aluminum-intensive vehicle (AIV), with the Mercury Sable as the test platform.
Fast-forward twenty years, this experiment to reduce the weight of vehicles proved to be pioneering since it helped introduce fuel economy and eventually set the stage for the increasingly stringent Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards.
Barthelemy later went on to become Ford's global chief engineer, Body Structures, and in 2006, he explained:
"Our [team's] job is to find innovative ways to design parts to reduce the weight and total cost of the part while maintaining or surpassing the strength requirements of the body structure." At that point, he said they were also "looking for the perfect application" where a stronger, lighter-weight aluminum body could be used and that the benefits would outweigh the costs to the consumer.
In 2008, Ford began this work with its next generation F-150. As this was the time higher CAFE benchmarks for light-duty trucks were being introduced, the Body Structures team decided to focus on creating a new truck with aluminum body. Not only would this boost fuel economy, it would also improve acceleration and payload capacity, both of which were attractive features to F-150 buyers.
While some of Ford's upper management and key investors weren't initially sure they had made the right decision with the F-150, these fears were quickly allayed when they drove the X-0 F-150s early in 2010. "They were dumbfounded by the performance and quality of the job aluminum could do," said Barthelemy.
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Ford's 2015 F-150 came out a winner.