As automakers strive to hit new fuel economy mandates, Ford has placed its bestselling Ford F-Series on a diet, helping the vehicle lose 700 pounds. The high-strength aluminum body is a novel approach in the automotive landscape and has the potential to make a lasting impact on the entire new car space.

Ford sold a whopping 763,402 Ford F-Series vehicles in 2013, an 18.3% increase over the previous year. To put that in perspective, that’s more F-Series sold than Hyundai sold in total vehicles in the US in 2013. Or put a different way, one in 20 new cars sold in 2013 was a Ford F-Series. Among the F-Series, the Ford F-150 comprises the lion’s share of sales—Ford says that a new Ford F-150 is sold off a dealer’s lot every 41 seconds in the US and that 33 million F-150s have been sold since the inception of the model in 1948.

So when a line as successful as the Ford F-150 makes the transition to aluminum and focuses on fuel efficiency it marks a watershed moment for the new car industry. General Motors has also announced it is working towards all aluminum-bodied pickup trucks for the GMC Sierra and Chevrolet Silverado for 2018 and Ford says it’s considering using aluminum on other passenger cars and utility vehicles.

The high-strength, military-grade, aluminum alloys used throughout the new Ford F-150 promise to reduce the vehicle’s weight anywhere between 550 and 700 pounds, according to Ford. Combined with a new fuel efficient engine (a twin-turbo 2.7-liter V-6 with auto start-stop that has the equivalent power of a mid-range V-8) the new Ford F-150 is predicted to get upwards of 30 mpg on the highway, compare that to 28 mpg on the highway for the 2014 Ram 1500 EcoDiesel and 22 mpg for the most fuel efficient F-150 model currently available.

According to Mintel research, 45% of consumers intending to purchase a new car say that the combined (i.e. combination of city/highway) EPA fuel economy rating is the most important factor in selecting their next car. Individually, 30% said city fuel economy was the most important, while 29% said highway fuel economy was the most important.

While common in other industries, from aerospace and beverage packaging, aluminum has mostly been relegated to high-end luxury cars, such as on some Audi, Jaguar, Cadillac, Acura and Mercedes-Benz models, when it comes to vehicle bodies. That’s because aluminum can be expensive to manufacture and to repair—body shops need different tools to repair aluminum compared to the steel.

Anticipating the continued popularity of the Ford F-150, thousands of body shops across America are taking the steps to upgrade their service to better cater to aluminum alloys. To help, Ford is chipping in up to $10,000 for dealers purchasing equipment to fix the F-150’s new aluminum body (this equipment costs between $35,000-$50,000) and also offers training courses on how to repair these vehicles.

The desire for great fuel economy without decreased performance will continue to be of the utmost importance to consumers. Ford has taken the first step towards pleasing their customers and new car buyers will more than likely respond positively to their efforts.

Colin brings to Mintel a decade’s worth of obsessive coverage of the automotive industry. Along with historical knowledge and industry relationships, he boasts a deep-rooted love and passion for automobiles and for the automotive industry.

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