* Next-generation F-series arrives in fall 2014
* Ford wants to shave weight by 700 pounds or more
* Extensive use of aluminum, improved powertrains will help
DETROIT, Dec 13 (Reuters) - Ford Motor Co is aiming to
boost the gas mileage of its next-generation F-150 pickups by
15-20 percent, thus shifting the battleground in full-size
trucks from power, durability and towing capacity to fuel
Ford is pursuing a different strategy from crosstown rival
General Motors Co, which Thursday unveiled its redesigned
2014 Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra pickups, touting such
virtues as more power and torque, a quieter cab and additional
Ford instead is intent on hiking its average truck fuel
economy by up to 3 miles per gallon when it implements a $2
billion redesign of its full-size F-series in fall 2014,
according to an industry source familiar with the company's
The 2015 Ford F-150 "will be a game-changer that will alter
the dynamics of the truck segment," the source said. "They're
shooting for best-in-class fuel economy."
"Ford is committed to offering our customers leading fuel
economy (but) it's premature to talk about future products,"
said company spokesman Mike Levine.
The overhaul of its big pickup and the focus on improving
its mileage are important for several reasons -- to help
maintain the F-series' dominant position in the truck segment,
to help maintain a key source of the company's profits and to
help meet more stringent federal fuel-economy standards that
take effect in 2015 and 2016.
The F-series, which has been the best-selling vehicle in the
United States for 30 years, and sport-utility derivatives such
as the Expedition account for more than 90 percent of Ford's
global profit, according to Morgan Stanley auto analyst Adam
"Today's pickup buyers are more savvy and want greater
utility, technology and comfort features, along with improved
fuel economy," said Joseph Langley, analyst with LMC Automotive.
Ford aims to achieve its aggressive truck fuel-economy
target by shaving an average of 700-750 pounds from each
vehicle, largely through the extensive use of aluminum for
doors, fenders, cab and tailgate, said two industry sources
familiar with the F-series redesign program.
As part of the truck overhaul, known internally as the P552
program, Ford is redesigning most major chassis components such
as brakes and axles to further reduce weight.
The company also is developing a new family of highly
efficient engines under the internal program code Nano, the
sources said. The small-displacement V6 engines will employ
Ford's EcoBoost technology, including turbocharging and direct
The first of the Nano engines, a 2.9-liter V6, isn't likely
to appear until 2016 or later, the sources said.
Before then, however, Ford is expected to offer an
eight-speed automatic transmission in the F-series in 2014 or
2015, further enhancing fuel economy, they said.
Ford also is jointly developing with Toyota Motor Corp
a new family of hybrid gasoline-electric engines to
help meet even tougher emissions and fuel-economy standards
toward the end of the decade.
For model year 2013, the highest-mileage Ford pickup is the
F-150 XL 4x2 regular cab equipped with the 3.7-liter V6 and
six-speed automatic transmission. EPA ratings are 17 miles per
gallon in city driving and 23 on the highway. The
top-of-the-line F-150 Limited 4x2 SuperCrew with the EcoBoost
twin-turbocharged 3.5-liter V6 and six-speed is rated at 15 city
and 21 highway.
(Reporting by Paul Lienert in Detroit; Editing by Phil
- fuel economy