Changes are coming to Ford's flagship F-150 pickup truck.
The revamped F-150, now in its 14th generation, will deliver more payload and towing capability, more torque, more horsepower and more comfort, the Dearborn automaker said Thursday as it unveiled the full-size truck in a splashy online debut. And for the first-time ever, the F-150 will be built with a hybrid V6 powertrain, available on every trim level from the XL to Limited.
Trucks are a lucrative market for automakers and the F-Series has been the best-selling pickup in the U.S. for 43 years. Nearly 592,000 F-150s were sold in 2019 versus 450,316 units of the Chevrolet Silverado and 443,070 units of the Ram 1500, its two closest competitors.
"The F-Series launch is a pivotal moment for Ford," said Jessica Caldwell, an analyst at Edmunds. "This truck has been Ford’s cash cow for years and a bright spot during this pandemic, but it has also been in need of a fresh redesign as the truck wars have grown more heated. Ford has been under intense scrutiny from Wall Street for a number of years so the pressure is on Jim Hackett and team to get this right and inspire investor confidence."
The new F-150 will be built at Ford's Dearborn and Kansas City plants. Pricing, power and fuel economy ratings will be announced in the coming months.
A Ford spokesperson said the company was on track to deliver the trucks to dealers this fall with production only minimally impacted by the coronavirus shutdown.
The Big Oval expects 10% of F-150 models to be hybrids, which can get up to 700 miles of range on a single tank of gas, according to Ford. The electric motor applies regenerative braking energy to recharge the 1.5-kilowatt-hour lithium-ion electric battery, which is located underneath the truck.
"We're confident F-150 will change minds about what a hybrid can be," the spokesperson said.
Caldwell has low sales expectations for the hybrid F-150, "but Ford must continue to innovate in this space as it can't afford another competitor to swoop in and steal the crown," she said.
Analysts at Kelley Blue Book call the F-150 the "genre's best example" that delivers on safety, driving comfort and performance.
"Ford is well above average in every category, near the top in most," according to Kelley Blue Book's Vanessa Ton. "That's the definition of a dominant product."
Buyers of the new F-150 will notice exterior redesigns including updated headlamps, wraparound bumpers and a new power dome hood. The new cab and active grille shutters also help to reduce drag and improve fuel consumption, Ford said, making the revised F-150 "the most aerodynamic ever."
Ford paid particular attention to the interior, upgrading the materials inside the cabin and adding a 12-inch center screen to XLT high series models and above. Seats also recline up to nearly 180 degrees and onboard generators -- a built-in power source -- free up cargo space and can charge a full bed of electric dirt bikes, according to Ford.
Going electric will be the next step for the F-150 -- but not until 2022, according to the company.
Ford has been struggling financially; sales dropped by 12.5% in the first quarter, marking the company’s biggest quarterly decline in 11 years. The 117-year-old automaker will reveal its Bronco 4x4 on July 13 and deliveries of the 2021 Mustang Mach-E SUV begin later this year.