Muskogee, Oklahoma, United States
The ongoing heavy-duty truck battle between Ford and Ram is showing no signs of slowing down. The Blue Oval is trying to remove at least one point of contention between the two brands by testing its 2015 F-450 Super Duty using the Society of Automotive Engineers J2807 towing standard, which Ram also uses. In the new evaluation, the F-450 is rated at a max towing capacity of 31,200 pounds. That's an identical amount as under Ford's own, previous test.
"We leave no doubt with customers that the F-450 pickup truck has best-in-class towing of 31,200 pounds - whether tested using our own internal towing standards or SAE J2807," said Raj Nair, Ford group vice president for Global Product Development, in the company's release.
At the same time, Ford is also changing how it calculates the F-450's payload. Instead of using its minimum curb weight as before, the brand is now using the truck's base curb weight. The revision lowers the pickup's rating to 5,300 pounds, compared to 5,450 pounds previously. The company said in its announcement that the reason for this is "aligning its payload rating practices with other manufacturers to make it easier for customers to compare vehicles." General Motors made a similar switch for its pickups in August.
In the automotive realm, marketing can sometimes prove just as important as the actual product. Take, for instance, Ford's well regarded EcoBoost technology, which couples turbocharging with direct injection to produce more horsepower and reduce fuel consumption. Would it surprise you to hear that General Motors has had similar technology on the market for over three years?
It's true. GM's first turbocharged, direct injected powerplants hit the market for the 2007 model. The 2.0-liter Ecotec mills put down an impressive 260 horsepower and a matching 260 pound-feet of torque, and they were lauded by the press in the engine bays of the Pontiac Solstice, Saturn Sky, Chevrolet Cobalt SS and Chevrolet HHR SS. But few people outside a core group of enthusiasts actually remember this fact.
Says Uwe Grebe, executive director of GM's global advanced engineering, "We didn't have a badge and say, 'This is the most important thing we will put on all our brochures.'" Ford, however, did just that, and it's EcoBoost engines are right at the tips of all our tongues when we discuss today's most advanced powerplants. So, how does The General fix its mistake?
While most of us believe that small, fuel efficient cars are the key to global expansion for US automakers, Jim Farley, Ford's vice president of Global Marketing, thinks otherwise. Last week, we attended an exclusive sneak preview of the Ford Edge Concept in advance of the Los Angeles Auto Show, and Farley told us that it's actually utility vehicles that will help the Blue Oval gain market share overseas. "There is no other segment in our industry that is growing like utilities," he said. "We expect over the next five years this full family of [utility] vehicles to really drive our growth as a company."
And Farley has the numbers to back it up, too. Ford projects overall automotive sales to grow 23 percent from 2012 to 2017, but the company's utility vehicles are expected to boom by an impressive 41 percent during that same period. Much of that growth will be in China, where Ford estimates its utility sales will explode. "The biggest opportunity for us globally for utilities is in China," Farley said. "China utility growth is expected to more than double from where it is today to 2017, which isn't that far away." Most astounding is that Ford projects its own utility sales in China will eventually increase by more than 2,000 percent when smaller crossovers, such as the EcoSport and Kuga (sold as the Escape in North America), and the Edge and Explorer, are factored in.
Ford's VP also expects utilities to lead the way in the struggling European market. "With all the difficulties of the European market, there is one segment that has actually expanded in volume over the last several years even though the market is way down, and that's utilities," Farley told us. Ford estimates that their utility sales will grow 65 percent in Europe from 2012-2017. "The utility segment is projected to grow we think about thirty percent between now and 2017 in Europe, and we think we are going to grow twice that rate as a brand," Farley continued.