Ford's restyled and re-engineered 2009 F-150 pickup is going back to its roots as a work truck.
With high fuel prices deflating sales of pickups for personal use, Ford will emphasize best-in-class towing of 11,300 pounds and best-in-class payload capacity of 3,030 pounds in advertising that begins next month.
The messages will be directed at tradesmen, contractors, farmers and others whose livelihood requires a big pickup. "We know that those core truckers are people who are dependent on and need capability," says Doug Scott, Ford brand truck marketing manager.
Core buyers represent about 49 percent of Ford's pickup sales this year, up from 32 percent in 2003.
The basics: The F-150's frame has been re-engineered to boost payload and towing capacity. High-strength steel provides 10 percent more rigidity and cuts 100 pounds of weight. Ford says the frame also helps cut road noise and vibration five percent.
Ford claims an eight percent average improvement in fuel economy for all 2009 F-150 models. Part of that increase is due to the addition of a six-speed automatic transmission, which is available with two V-8 engines.
Another contributor is the Superior Fuel Economy package, which targets such areas as axle ratio, tires, and aerodynamics. It is available on two-wheel-drive XL and XLT models, resulting in 15 mpg city/21 highway.
Six airbags are standard, as is stability control, roll-stability control, and trailer sway control. Much of the sheet metal is new and more aerodynamic, another factor boosting fuel economy.
On the inside, Ford reworked the instrument panel, interior trim and seats. Previous F-150 owners complained about the seats. "You were sitting on it rather than sitting in it. That was a major focus," says Scott. "We spent a lot of time working on comfort and lateral support. Different seat frame, different cushions."
Notable features: The crew cab's passenger compartment was stretched six inches to create more rear-seat legroom. Engineers created a flat floor behind the front seats. When the rear seat is flipped up, large items such as a 52-inch TV can fit on the flat floor.
A factory-installed computer with instrument-panel display and Internet access is optional. Also optional is Ford's tailgate step, which drops down to ease entry into the cargo box. The step was introduced on the 2008 Super Duty model.
What Ford says: "Capability matters more now than ever," Scott concludes.
Compromises and shortcomings: The regular cab 2004-08 F-150 came standard with two full-size doors and two smaller access doors, which provided easy access to the cargo area behind the front seat. The access doors are no longer offered on the 2009 regular cab.
Nuts and bolts: The first 2009 F-150 pickups started arriving at dealers in September. The F-150 is available in three cab styles, four box options, and seven trim levels.
The skinny: Full-size pickups are in a deep recession, as personal-use buyers stay away. Ford did its homework and reworked the truck for its core buyers: tradesmen.
(Via: Automotive News)