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Auto blogMon, 13 Jan 2014 09:05:00 EST
Just when you thought you'd figured the fullsize truck market out, Ford goes and throws us a massive curve ball with the 2015 F-150. The big headline news aren't tow or payload ratings, though we're sure those figures will be fully competitive if not class leading, they haven't yet been announced. Instead, the big headline news Ford is highlighting are the truck's new aluminum-intensive structure and 2.7-liter EcoBoost V6 engine.
And with good reason - all that aluminum means that Ford was able to cut a massive 700 pounds from the truck's curb weight. That is going to cause all sorts of great things to happen to the 2015 F-150's driving dynamics, performance and fuel efficiency, not to mention its ability to haul heavy loads. For those customers worried about the strength of aluminum versus the more conventional steel, Ford is quick to point out that many military vehicles, such as the HMMWV and Bradley Fighting Vehicle, use a very similar sort of aluminum alloy in their construction.
It's also worth mentioning that the backbone, a fully boxed ladder frame, is hewn from high-strength steel. Ford says "2015 Ford F-150 is the strongest and most durable F-150 ever," for what it's worth, claiming that "torture tested" in labs and in the real world for more than 10 million miles. What's more, the truck, in disguised form, completed all 883 miles of the Baja 1000.
The current Ford Explorer is sold in more than 64 countries, and this three-row vehicle continues to grow in popularity worldwide. To keep up with demand, Ford began producing the Explorer at Ford Sollers Elabuga Assembly Plant in Tatarstan, Russia, a joint venture facility. This partnership will build Russian-market Explorers only, and production of export vehicles not destined for Russian buyers will continue to be built at Ford's assembly plant in Chicago.
Before this plant went online, Ford would ship Explorers to Russia (and other regions around the world) as partially assembled knock-down units where final assembly would eventually take place. While there is no indication as to how many Explorers Ford Sollers will build for Russia, Ford did add that exports of the SUV were up 65 percent last year (from 2011) accounting for more than 24,000 units.
Scroll down for a press release about the Russian Explorer as well as a video (bad music and all) showing the SUV being produced in Tatarstan.
Customers are a commodity in the automotive industry, and like any other commodity, automakers trade them back and forth. Only nobody wants to give up their customers - just to keep the ones they have and try to attract others.
That's what the Polk Automotive Loyalty Awards are all about. Every year the industry research body names the automakers, brands and models that manage to keep their customers coming back for more - and attract buyers to switch from other makes. Ford usually does pretty well, but this year it rose above even its own track record.
Not only did Dearborn win the Overall Loyalty to Manufacturer award, but also the Overall Loyalty to Make. Ford also took the African American category, and the F-150 was named the top full-size half-ton pickup in customer loyalty. Ford COO Mark Fields (pictured above) accepted the awards and gave the keynote address at the awards ceremony.