DETROIT — Ford's redesigned F-150 pickup truck has brains and brawn. And a new engine option built in Lima.
Ford unveiled a new, lighter F-150 truck Monday at the North American International Auto Show, and it will feature a new engine built in Lima. The 2015 model will have four engine choices, including an all-new 2.7-liter V6 EcoBoost engine, built at the Lima Ford Engine Plant, Pete Reyes, the chief engineer for the F-150, confirmed Monday at the auto show.
The new F-150 has a high-strength, military-grade aluminum alloy body. The alloys, already used in aerospace, commercial transportation and other industries, make the new truck's body lighter, stronger and more resistant to dents. Overall, the F-150 is up to 700 pounds lighter, helping the truck tow and haul more, accelerate and stop faster, and operate more efficiently, the company said Monday.
Ford expects the new engine to go into about a quarter of the F-150 trucks sold. Already a larger V6 EcoBoost goes into about 35 percent of the trucks sold.
Employees at the Lima Engine Plant are proud to be a part of the relaunch of an iconic Ford product, said Mike Felix, the plant's manager.
“After three years, we're seeing the fruits of our labor. Folks here are very excited. We're proud to be on the cutting edge of engine technology. It's been many firsts for us and folks here are quite proud to be a part of that. We were eager to hear the truck get announced,” Felix said.
The new line is additional volume for the plant in addition to the current engine work, so it will mean additional jobs, but Felix couldn't comment on exact numbers. Engines are now coming off the line in preproduction, and the line will fully launch this fall with the truck.
Floor space is now at a premium at the Lima plant, a far cry from a few years ago when the plant's future was in question.
Mayor David Berger chairs the Lima Auto Task Force, which supports the Ford plant and advocates for the auto industry in the region. Berger cheered the news.
“Having the announcement made at the Detroit Auto Show is a great showcase for both the new F-150 and for its Lima engine. Both have superior reputations for quality,” Berger said. “Because the F-150 has been a star for Ford Motor for a long time, this should herald a long-term need for the Lima built 2.7 V6 EcoBoost. It is indeed great news for the Lima Engine Plant.”
The new engine can be seen at the auto show, as part of a large display by Ford about the new F-150.
Allen County Commissioner Cory Noonan said the new engine is good news for a staple in the community.
“To have engines built right here in Allen County going into the best-selling pickup truck in the U.S. market speaks volumes to the men and women working at the Lima Ford Engine Plant,” Noonan said. “Each time you hear a manufacturing facility being connected to a new product, it's exciting and it brings a sense of stability. Producing an engine that is a part of the new F-150 shows confidence in the work being performed at the Lima Ford Engine Plant. Each time the facility is called upon, they step up. I see this as a great opportunity.”
Ford Executive Vice President and President of the Americas Joe Hinrichs acknowledged the new engine for the truck but stopped short of confirming that it will be built on the engine line under construction at Ford's Lima Engine Plant, saying he wasn't certain of the timing with the new line in Lima.
“I'll acknowledge the 2.7-liter engine, which is smaller than the 3.5-liter engine already being built,” Hinrichs said. “Lima is good plant for us, and we're looking forward to building more engines there.”
The Lima plant employs 826 hourly and 123 salaried workers. Lima-built engines go in the Taurus, Explorer, the Police Interceptor versions of those two vehicles, Edge, Edge Sport, Flex, and Lincoln MKT, MKS and MKZ.
The engine has been in the works for years. In 2011, during contract negotiations between Ford and UAW, it was announced Lima would receive a significant investment in a new premium V6 engine.
The new engine line has been under construction at the Lima Ford Engine Plant since 2012. Ford officials have previously said the new line would be for a smaller V6 engine using EcoBoost technology. An engine plant in Cleveland is currently building the 3.5-liter V6 EcoBoost engine, which has won over F-150 drivers for providing power like a V8 engine while increasing fuel economy.
Customers embracing the EcoBoost for the F-150 emboldened Ford to develop a smaller engine that delivers even more fuel economy, Reyes said.
Reducing weight on the truck makes the smaller engine possible, said Raj Nair, Ford group vice president of global product development.
The redesign and aluminum body is a significant risk for the company; the F-150 is the best-selling pickup truck in the U.S. market for the 37th straight year and best-selling vehicle for the 32nd year. A new F-150 is sold every 41 seconds.
“The bigger risk is standing still,” Ford Executive Chairman Bill Ford said. “We planned this a few years ago when things weren't looking so rosy, and it was a big decision, but it was the right one.
Ford said people had “great skepticism” when the company introduced the EcoBoost into the F-series, but that it not only has been accepted, it has become popular.
The redesigned F-150 has more capability than the current model, company officials stressed Monday.
“Once people see it, drive it, they'll understand it,” Ford said.
Ford will add 11,000 jobs worldwide this year. It plans to open two new plants in China, a new plant in Brazil and add capacity to six plants in the United States. The company will also introduce 23 new vehicles this year, including 16 in North America, which is triple the amount from 2013.
Earlier in the day, the show announced the Chevrolet Silverado was the 2014 North American Truck of the Year. The Corvette Stingray was the car of the year.