Detroit Free Press from Detroit, Michigan on November 12, 1995 · Page 25
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Detroit Free Press from Detroit, Michigan · Page 25

Detroit, Michigan
Issue Date:
Sunday, November 12, 1995
Page 25
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THE DETROIT NEWS SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 12, 1995 30 "-v" V America's truck FACT: The new F-150 has items that would have been-impossible to find on a pickup five years ago such as bigger and easier to reach knobs and powerpoints for cellular phones. PICKUP Continued from Page 2D the vehicle look more integrated and provide more space and headroom in the back of the cab. "From the early market research we did, we discovered people were very appreciative of space behind the seat and moving the back light away from their head," Baughman said. While that doesn't sound revolutionary, no one had done it before on a large pickup. A pickup's cab and the box can't touch each other because they need to move independently when the frame of the vehicle twists. But no one had thought to bring them closer together. Computer sketches of the integration were drawn up. Using calculations of the frame's stiffness, engineers predicted they needed 29 millimeters of room between the overlap of the cab and box. Then, in the seclusion of Ford's Yucca, Ariz., proving grounds, engineers tested a truck designed that way in a "twist ditch", a 2'j-foot deep, large concrete trench. The truck was driven diagonally through the ditch at 35 and 45-degree angles 3,465 times. The engineers had calculated correctly. The trick to add more interior space would fly. Inspired by gorillas Harold Poling, Ford's chairman in November 1991, gave Baughman the green light to form a bona fide product development team. They had a year to figure out what the new truck should look like. Nothing can be more disastrous for a redesigned vehicle than poor styling. For all the millions of dollars and countless hours Ford's market research department has spent gauging potential buyers' reactions, no automaker can safely assume a radically different style will catch buyers' fancy. For generations, pickup buyers have expected their trucks to come with big, boxy front ends high off of the ground in the same way that sports car fans hunger for low, sleek lines and tons of horsepower. In late 1991, Terrell Edgar, the new truck's design manager, and a , small group of designers at Ford began exploring how they could create a modern look for the truck that still conveyed toughness, The 51-year-old graduate of the Arts Center College of Design in Pasadena, Calif., has been styling cars and trucks at Ford for almost 30 years. At that point, the team hadn't seen any spy photos of the new Dodge Ram pickup, which would come out with a front end reminiscent of both today's big rigs and pickup trucks from the 1940s and 1950s. While the Ram's daring front end would later prove to be an overwhelming success, Edgar and his designers chose not to use a retro look for their new pickup. They feared "retro" would be a fad and wouldn't sell the large volume of trucks Ford produced every year. Dodge could afford such a gamble because its presence in the big pickup market was almost negligible. "What is tough? That was one of the first things the studio was asked to consider," said Robert Aikins, who later joined Edgar's team and now serves as chief designer for all of Ford's light trucks. The studio found that not everything that was tough was hard-edged. Muscular defines tough." Designers pored over photographs and drawings of gorillas and rhinoceroses, animals that are both tough and muscular. After showing consumer focus groups and design and truck managers a range of sketches, Edgar nar- 'TI:3cy&!iU:ncratruck' Large pickup trucks have come a long way. Not only have they gotten bigger, but they also have taken on many '. attributes formerly reserved for cars, such as power steering and air bags. Now, Ford's new F-150 and Chrysler's Dodge Ram are redefining this conservative American icon. 1925: 1928: 1938: 1939: 1948: 1851 First Ford pickup, the Model T Runabout, sells for $281. Ford builds 34,000 the first year. Company introduces first closed cab pickup. Introduction of 1-ton trucks. Introduction of 34-ton trucks. , Introduction of F-Series trucks, ranging from the half-ton F-1 to the three-ton F-8. '"ast III, .. Fcrd truck c!:s en tfca rba During the 1 960s and 1 970s, Americans bought Ford's F-Series pickup trucks in droves. But the second oil shock in 1979 sent sales ' of the pickups plummeting. ! 1995 sales through October, 579,637 1949 F-Series 1953: 1957: 1959: 1965: 1973: 1974; 1975; 1980: F-Series trucks got a redesigned f"" . -0.. front end, a largerrear V window and ; new Instrument panel. Introduction of redesigned trucks and the F-1 became the F-100, the F-2 and the F-3 merged to become the F-250, etc... . : A new design called the F-100 Styleside was Introduced and the Ranchero, a station wagon converted Into a pickup, made its debut : First factory-produced F-100 and F-250 4x4s. : Introduction of Twin l-Beam Suspension (it was dropped 30 years later). Trucks redesigned to provide a longer cab, new doors, floor pans, roofs, outside skin and instrument panels. F-Series pickup was third best-selling vehicle behind Chevy and Ford full-size cars. : Ford rolls out Its first extended cab models. 900,000 r 800,000 k A . 700,000 all ' 600,000 If 1 jA ft 500,000 1 l 400,000 " I . 30000 '! : - J. ; yf i ; 200,000 ' 100,000 V, . V - V W-;0.:'" ' 'l'ir'V' Vl"" '' ' ' -50 '55 '60 '65 70 75 80 '85 '90 '95 Introduction of F-150, billed . as" a heavier-duty version of F-100. , ' Most extensive redesign of F-Series trucks to date. Trucks became more aerodynamic, with more polished interiors. 1980 F-Series 1980: Added new vertical and horizontal bars theme grille, a larger front bumper and 1 0 percent more legroom. 1982: Ford name removed from the face of the hood and replaced by the Ford oval in the center of - the grille.- - 1984: End of F-100 name. 1987: Front end redesign. ' 1992: Front end redesign, new instrument panel and climate control system. Power steermg becomes standard for truck ' line.- : v..'v- w -; f 1994: Driver's air bag becomes stan- ' dard. 1996: Completely redesigned 1997-: 150 trucks hit dealer showrooms. Sources: Ford Motor Co., Standard Catalog of American Light-Duty Trucks rowed the choices down to four looks: Revolutionary, Muscular, Personal Use and Evolutionary. Dreamed up by Ford's Valencia, Calif., design studio, Revolutionary incorporated the most radical styling; Evolutionary stood at the opposite end of the spectrum. Muscular and Personal Use fell in between. In the end, after testing all four styles on between 200 to 300 would-be buyers, the team decided to merge Revolutionary's clean body with Muscular's front end. "Our existing customers were ready for change, but they were not ready to get away from toughness," Edgar said. . Further refinements were made after showing the designs to additional focus groups. But that was not an exact science. The front bumpers of the 4x2 models originally were all chrome. The focus groups said it needed a rubber bumper strip. But when Ford added one, they complained it hid too much of the chrome. The team reached a compromise by reducing the size of the strip. Another area of uncertainty centered on the truck's front end look. Should it have the traditional chrome grille or one the color of the rest of the truck's body? In the early 1990s, Baughman said Ford began to move in the direction of the more progressive look by offering body color grilles on select F-150 models. Ford had been successful in offering the chrome look on its lower-end Explorer sport-utility vehicles while reserving the more sporty look of a body color grille for its higher-priced Eddie Bauer versions. "Traditionally, the pickup truck market has been relatively conservative, and you see a lot more chrome on the front end of pickup trucks than on passenger cars," Baughman said. "We struggled so much with the decision, we decided to offer both." Buyers of the 4x2 F'-150s will get the chrome grille; those who pur- The Detroit News Alan lessig The Detroit News Designers added a third door on the passenger side as standard fare, allowing access for passengers and to stow gear. chase the more sporty 4x4s will get the body color grilles. In November 1992, Baughman and his boss, Alex Trotman, then executive vice-president of Ford's North American Automotive Operations and now Ford's chairman, won the official approval of Ford's design committee for the F-150's fiberglass model. By the time that decision was made 36 months before production of the truck would begin key Ford executives and board members were already well-versed about the direction Baughman's team was taking. Poling, who retired from the automaker just over a year later, had seen the prototype at least three times. William Clay Ford, then the chairman of Ford's finance committee, had examined it frequently. And Jack Telnack, vice-president of design, saw it every day. T for Texas, T for trucks On a bright, windy day in the middle of October, 25-year-old Bobby Boney and a small group of salesmen waited outside the front doors of Westway Ford, one of the largest Ford dealerships in Texas. Sur rounded by pickups of all sizes, shapes and colors, Boney, who has sold Ford trucks for the past two years, watched he Dallas-bound traffic rush past. Westway, located in nearby Irving, sells about 300 Ford trucks a month, of which 175 to 200 are F-Series pickups. For Ford, Westway is one of the main gateways to the largest pickup market in the world. "I wouldn't drive anything but a pickup, and that's the way a lot of people feel here," Boney said. Texas is the heart of pickup country. If a truck is going to sell, it has to sell there. Last year, Ford sold 65,182 F-Series trucks in Texas, a 22-percent jump over the 53,336 pickups sold there in 1992. General Motors Corp.'s Chevrolet division, Ford's chief competitor, sold 73,120 Chevy CKs in Texas, a 12 percent increase over 1992. When the new F-150 begins arriving at Westway and other dealerships in January, it faces an expanding market for trucks and one that will become more competitive. Buyers continue to flock to the. Dodge Ram. For the 1996 model year, Chrysler boosted production Dodge Ram Toyota MOO Chevrolet CK I - . ZJ tjO tTTT (?) r i .v . ..- Ford ftsvr&t CO F-&r!a 1 CK Rani - Slarra Toyota T1C3 GMC Sierra !tiw4 , . . , . tviU . J-Jivi ,. ja,ur 1993 543,634 513,147 . 95,542 169,510 22,028 1C52" 473,703' 4C3,1ca S0.K3.'. 344.CD3 1,461 , 1991 432,644 404,763 122,417 Source. Ward's Automotive Reports The Detroit News capacity to 450,000 trucks. Baughman and his team won't say how much the Dodge Ram's success altered their design plans. But they grudgingly admit that Chrysler did a good job redesigning the truck's front end. "When we saw Dodge, we were kind of surprised by it," Baughman said. "I would have expected them to do a more traditional pickup." And even though buyers have shied away from the weak engine in Toyota Motor Corp.'s T-100 since its ' introduction in the fall of 1992, that will likely change once the Japanese automake'r adds a V-8 engine in late 1998. Worse for Ford, Toyota will cut costs dramatically by producing the vehicles in the United States instead of exporting them from Japan. "We will become a bigger force in America's truck market," vowed Masanao Shiomi, a Toyota managing director, just before the recent Tokyo Motor Show. But it is GM that could give Ford the worst nightmares. In late 1998, GM will bring out new versions of its Chevrolet CK and GMC Sierra large pickups. For years, the two automakers have battled each other for truck sales leadership. Since the CK pickup is the country's No. 2 selling vehicle, GM stands to capture the sales crown if the new F-Series falters and the new CK is a big hit. "The history of these (Ford) trucks is that they appealed mostly to commercial buyers and farmers," said Thad Malesh, an auto analyst at J.D. Power & Associates in Agoura Hills, Calif. "Today what they are really going after with the new F-150 is the personal use market. That's going to be a very competitive market. "The payoff could be enormous, but the loss could be, too." Ford wont say how much the new F-150 will cost consumers until the end of this month. But dealers and analysts expect a noticeable price hike, perhaps as much as $2,000 for the high-end models. By hitting the market in January, the new F-150 will be labeled a 1997 model. To soften the changeover and keep production levels high, Ford will make both the old and the new truck until the end of August. The strategy guarantees the automaker will have enough trucks on hand next year to protect its sales leadership. Until August 1996, it will be hard to find the new trucks in anything but extended cab versions, which are in far greater demand than regular cabs. That will give consumers plenty of time to get used to the significant changes on the new trucks while dealers build up orders for the regular cab models. "If you can't afford a 1997 F-150, we're going to sell you a 1996," Boney said. Opening a third door . From the beginning, Baughman's team set out to determine the industry leader in each of 20 areas, ranging from ride to powertrain performance to climate control. They looked at the F-150's competitors and passenger cars. In the end, the team decided the new truck needed to, among other things, match or exceed the quality of Toyota's compact pickups; steer with the responsiveness of the police car versions of Ford's Crown Victoria sedans; and distribute heat to drivers and passengers like the Toyota 4Runner sport-utility vehicle. But when it came to building a third door on the passenger side of extended cab versions of the pickup, the team had ho example to follow. "That was one of the major things that came out of our research," Edgar said. "People wanted more cab space and access to that cab space." Consumers weren't willing to pay for a fourth door, which also would have hurt the truck's fuel economy by adding even more weight to the vehicle. Originally, the third door was intended to be an option for customers who bought extended cabs. But Baughman decided making the door standard was the only way to insure that engineers and designers would give it all the attention it needed. The value-enhancing addition could quickly turn into a fatal flaw if it didn't keep out wind and water or created annoying rattles! "We had not really achieved the level of perfection that we wanted to have for the new" extended cabs, Baughman said. , Using computer designs, Ford built one door and then tested and modified it before building several othSrs until the design satisfied Baughman. Adding a third door was also aimed at giving Ford another edge over the Dodge Ram. But just as Ford engineers thought they had a revolutionary idea, word leaked out that Chevrolet was preparing to offer a third door as an option on its CK and its S-Series compact pickups and would end up beating Ford to market by a few months. "This is a sharp-looking truck. I'd hate to use this truck for wofk. A lot of my buddies have bought the Dodge Ram. This (the interior) looks a lot like it." Gary Kramer Clinton Township resident "What is tough? That was one of the first things the studio was asked to consider. The studio found that not everything that was tough was hard-edged. Muscular defines tough." Robert Aikins Chief designer for all of Ford's light trucks "From the early market research we did, we discovered people were very appreciative of space behind the seat and moving the back light away from their head." Thomas D. Baughman Ford Motor Co. . "I don't know what the big deal ; ' is," said Edward Schoener, Chevro- ' let's manager of full-size trucks. '., "This is not rocket science." !: Sweating every detail For the first time, the inside of a truck is getting as much attention ''-as the outside. The team determined the new F- 150 needed a sculptured instrument ' panel to complement its muscular ; exterior, Edgar said. They also added ) items that would have been impos- ' sible to find on a pickup five years ago: Bigger and easier to reach : knobs; soft-feel paint for the dash- i i a- . -n.i A-l- 11 phones and laptop computers; illu- minated speed controls on the steer- ' ing wheel; driver and passenger air bags; and the integration of the door and instrument panels. i With a tougher market to please, ' even something as minor as the lighting inside the glove box received ; scrutiny. j When Edgar and his designers discovered the small light in the glove compartment didn't iUurninate the back of theiox very well, they changed the shape of the box slight- . ly and moved the light. Then they', realized the light gave off a glare. ' Adding a shield to the bulb finally solved the problem. J "That's the type of thing we did ; over and over again," Edgar said. It's that kind of attention to detail, he; added, that shows "I am very anxious about the truck selling more! than 700,000 units." If Ford cant sell that many trucks it will have a major problem on its hands. Already, the automaker is gear-! ing up for one of its largest plant! changeovers in recent history. ; On Nov. 29, Ford's Norfolk, Va.,; assembly plant wiUbegin producing the new vehicles, followed by its Kansas City plant on Dec. 13. Two! other plants, in Oakville, Ontario,' and in Wayne will switch to the new design next year. After that plants in Mexico and Louisville, Ky., will be retooled to produce the F-250 and F-350. Launching the redesigned Taurus in contrast only involved two plants. Ford executives are reluctant to discuss the investment they're pouring into the new F-Series after weathering extreme criticism for the $6 billion they spent to produce the s Ford Contour, Mercury Mystique and Europe's Ford Mondeo compact "world cars." But Ford suppliers say the price tag could hit $5 billion, making it the second-most costly project Ford has ever attempted, even though its sales are primarily limited to North American markets, To get the truck off to a strong start, Ford is expected to spend at least $110 million on advertising and marketing the same record amount it used to promote tiie men glamorous Taurus and Mercury Sable. Ford will keep its longtime "Built Ford Tough" slogan for the trucks. For Baughman, payoff time is fast approaching. The man who has devoted more than five years of his career to the F-150 now can only wait for consumers to tell him whether it was worth the effort. "My own personal worry is, Will it really turn out as spectacular as we planned it?m Baughman said. : To one ever said W to me when I asked for their help. I always had the feeiing that because it was the F-Series ... that the help was always offered. This is the company's crown jewel."

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