Ford Motor Company's 2015 F-150 Pickup Is Finally Unveiled Next Week; Here Are 2 Things to Look For

Ford's next-generation F-150 could be very similar to the Atlas concept. Photo credit: Ford.

Ford (NYSE: F  ) has done an incredible job over the past few years producing popular new designs around the globe and across multiple vehicle segments. Ford arguably now boasts a more balanced vehicle lineup than ever before. That said, Ford's F-Series is the company's most important vehicle hands down. If the world gave away a "Most Valuable Player" award in the automotive industry, Ford's F-Series is the LeBron James or Peyton Manning comparison.

Currently Ford's F-Series is the No. 1-selling truck for 37 consecutive years, and it's about to shake up the industry with a more revolutionary approach to its next-generation F-150, which will be unveiled next week at the North American International Automotive Show, in Detroit. Here are two things investors and car enthusiasts should be looking at when it hits the showroom.

Inside of Ford's Atlas concept. Photo credit: Ford.

Concept to production
The first thing we need to look at in depth is what changed between the Atlas concept, which surprisingly popped up at last year's show, and a more production-type model F-150. Typically, concept vehicles are loaded to the max with features and innovations that don't make it to production because of high cost or lack of perceived value. However, Ford has a track record of not overextending too far with its concept designs, and for that reason analysts are expecting the Atlas' more aggressive exterior look to remain.

The Atlas concept was absolutely loaded with features and a much more rugged look on its front grille. While it's likely we'll see a new EcoBoost power-train, rumors of a 2.7-liter V-6 that approaches 30 mpg are swirling, other features like active grille shutters and wheel shutters that close during high speeds to boost fuel mileage might not make the production model. Hidden cargo ramps, power running boards, an LED cargo box, side mirror lighting, and a 360-degree point-of-view camera may all be axed from final production or added to a list of possible features if consumers are willing to pay up for premium trims. 

Going from concept to production models is a big change. Investors and car enthusiasts both should take a close look at what the F-150 really is -- but expect nothing short of impressive. However, aside from all the features that might not make the cut, Ford plans on replacing a significant amount of steel with aluminum, and that will be the most important factor when it's unveiled next week.

Expect the new F-150 to have major technology upgrades. Photo credit: Ford.

Aluminum sales pitch
The NAIAS show in Detroit is big -- very big. It's the most important automotive show in the world, and countless vehicles look to take the spotlight, as do executives from all the major automakers. More than 5,000 automotive analysts and journalists will make the journey to Detroit, with more than 750,000 hungry consumers eager to see what cutting-edge vehicles are about to be unveiled.

Ford is taking a huge risk by replacing steel with aluminum, with the aim to reduce the F-150's weight by as much as 750 pounds. This will be extremely important to boost Ford's fleetwide miles per gallon, which needs to be 54.5 mpg by 2025, because the F-Series represents roughly a third of the company's sales in the U.S. market. The trick will be convincing the working class, which uses Ford's trucks as tools, and the general population that aluminum's perception of being weak and flimsy won't hinder the F-150's toughness or durability. If consumers remain unconvinced, it could put a serious dent in F-Series sales and leave the door open for the Silverado to gain valuable market share in the world's most profitable segment.

The first step in battling aluminum's weak image will be convincing all 5,000 automotive journalists and 750,00 consumers at the show next week that its new F-150 is less like an aluminum soda can and more like a bulletproof military vehicle -- so expect to hear details, specifics, and convincing sales pitches.

"This is already the most significant debut at the auto show," said Joe Langley, a production analyst for researcher IHS Automotive, according to Automotive News. "Everybody's going to be dissecting that thing for a long time, especially since Ford will be taking such a big gamble."

If Ford can convince the public its additional aluminum doesn't take away from the F-150's performance capablities and durability, it will only be the first victory in a longer war.

Aluminum is much more difficult to work with, and industry experts believe using the new material will change how the trucks are produced on the assembly line. Moreover, rumors are spreading that suppliers of Ford's aluminum panels are already behind, which could lead to costly delays and budget overruns; that's essentially nails screeching on a chalkboard for investors already coming to grips that 2014 will be less profitable as Ford launches more than twice the amount of new vehicles this year, compared with 2013. One thing is for sure: Next week will be huge for Ford, as well as others at the NAIAS show, and I fully expect the F-150 to deliver on its revolutionary design promises. 

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Read/Post Comments (10) | Recommend This Article (25)

Comments from our Foolish Readers

Help us keep this a respectfully Foolish area! This is a place for our readers to discuss, debate, and learn more about the Foolish investing topic you read about above. Help us keep it clean and safe. If you believe a comment is abusive or otherwise violates our Fool's Rules, please report it via the Report this Comment Report this Comment icon found on every comment.

  • Report this Comment On January 12, 2014, at 10:09 AM, rons23 wrote:

    No thanks i will stick with my Tundra.

  • Report this Comment On January 12, 2014, at 10:19 AM, ragusauce wrote:

    rons, PLEASE DO. Leave the F150 to us big boys. There's a reason Ford sold 700,00 TRUCKS to your 105,000. Hope you're good at numbers. LMAO!!!!

  • Report this Comment On January 12, 2014, at 1:14 PM, Sabrina56 wrote:

    I drive an 08 Tundra which I am fairly happy with, but my next pickup will be a Ford. Any truck that can take a 100 foot plunge off a bridge,into a frozen pond,& land upright is what I want!!!! It really happened a week ago in Mpls.

  • Report this Comment On January 12, 2014, at 1:34 PM, MUDFLAP514 wrote:

    I hope they remember that GM (I think) had a problem in the mid 80's with aluminum..where aluminum met steel on the motor......leaks....

  • Report this Comment On January 12, 2014, at 5:19 PM, aversocki wrote:

    I've also have a 08 Tundra that will be replaced in a year or so and depending on what this new F150 brings to the table I will most likely be purchasing a Ford. I like what I have seen from the looks of the Atlas and I hope it keeps it's exterior appearance and the very least.

  • Report this Comment On January 12, 2014, at 5:47 PM, Gabedaman wrote:

    rons23, if what you want is the least capable, least fuel efficient, least good looking, least dependable truck, then by all means stick with your TURDra. Real men drive FORD´S

  • Report this Comment On January 12, 2014, at 6:34 PM, Edogtitan wrote:

    I buy a new truck every 3 years. I've had a Ford F150- Ram1500 & presently a Chevy 1500 Silverado. By far the Ford was the best! I'm going back to Ford!

  • Report this Comment On January 12, 2014, at 11:34 PM, myTITAN wrote:

    No thanks I'll stick with my 05 Titan. who cares about the gas! this is a TOUGH TRUCK! look at the rear springs in these trucks! I have the rear springs of a ford F250 not like those measly thin springs on dodge toyota or even ford F150

    when I carry firewood to the hilt I get no SAG like the ninnies on YO mommas ford F150

  • Report this Comment On January 13, 2014, at 12:39 AM, CrazyDocAl wrote:

    Thanks but no thanks. Aluminum is a poor choice for panels and frames. It's too ridged and if you think salt is hard on steel wait until you see what it does to aluminum. If you get into an accident chances are your truck will be totaled simply because you tweaked the frame and it can't be straightened. Panels made from Aluminum will dent very easy.

    All one needs to do is look at the motorcycle industry. They use Aluminum and there is no weight savings. They have to make the frames much thicker to get enough strength. They use aluminum because it's stiffer and makes for a better track bike.

    Ford should have used plastic/ composite panels, that I would buy. Like the old Saturns.

  • Report this Comment On January 14, 2014, at 7:00 AM, josepking wrote:

    Ford does not do incorporate stupid technology, 2013 F150 had great innovations. This is my 3rd F150 and I will be buying the 2015 from my last Ford Dealer (Kisselback Ford), I will be placing my Factory Order when I read that the 2015, F150 is being manufactured. My 1998, F150 had over 200,000 miles on it when I sold it to a private party. I would hope the Ecco Boost improves on it's gas mileage, my only complant.

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Daniel Miller

As a Motley Fool Industrial Specialist, I use my marketing and business background in the automotive industry to evaluate major automakers and other large industrial corporations. Follow me on twitter for tweets about stocks, cars, sports, and anything I find amusing.

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