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Auto blogWed, 11 Jun 2014
In the next decade, the auto industry will see an explosion in its use of aluminum to cut weight and increase fuel economy, according to a study from market analysts Ducker Worldwide cited by The Detroit News. We are already seeing the lightweight metal show up extensively in luxury models from Europe, but with the impending launch of aluminum-intensive 2015 Ford F-150 (pictured above), North America is using it even more, as well. The report predicts 70 percent of US pickups to have aluminum bodies by 2025.
It won't just be pickups that see the benefit, though. The average amount of aluminum in US vehicles is forecasted by the study to grow from an average of 350 pounds in 2013 to about 550 pounds by 2025. The most common parts to use it will be hoods, doors and - to some extent - roofs, as well.
The massive increase in pickups' aluminum content hardly seems surprising. The F-150 is predicted to use so much that it might cause a short-term shortage, according to one earlier report. At the same time General Motors is heavily rumored to be negotiating with suppliers for the next generation Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra. Ram is the last holdout of the Big Three, but the study predicts that not to last.
How times have changed. Even five years ago, who would have thought the mighty V8 would be just another engine choice for buyers of the 2015 Ford F-150?
Ford is projecting about 28 percent of the next-generation trucks will have the 5.0-liter V8. That's nothing to sneeze at, but consider this: Ford figures its two EcoBoost truck engines - the new 2.7-liter V6 and the existing 3.5-liter V6 - will also each account for about 28 percent of the F-150's sales (56 percent total). That leaves only 15 percent of the pie for the 3.5-liter (non-EcoBoost) V6. The new F-150 goes on sale late this year.
Ford figures its two EcoBoost truck engines will each account for about 28 percent of the F-150's sales.
While the tide of bigger-is-better SUVs has been in recession since, well, the recession, fullsize utes are still very much with us. Conservative creatures that have been loathe to evolve, fullsize SUVs nonetheless remain enduringly popular among large families, livery customers, and anyone with lots of friends, relatives, and toys to tug around. With respect to Toyota and Nissan, the only players that really matter in the segment are the new-for-2015 Chevrolet Tahoe/Suburban, the GMC Yukon/Yukon XL, and this truck: the Ford Expedition, the latest evolution of which we just drove for the first time at a press preview in West Virginia.
Unlike the General Motors utilities, the standard Expedition and the long-wheelbase Expedition EL are not all-new, but rather are heavily refreshed versions of the same basic truck Ford started selling way back in 2007. The front fascia is where most of the exterior update happens for 2015, with a new three-bar grille design, halogen projector headlamps, and new bumper design with available LED foglamps. Despite all the new bits, the facelift breaks exactly zero ground in terms of design; in fact, it already looks dated, and will only look older once the macho 2015 F-150 bows later this year. Even less has changed out back, where the tailgate gets a wide chrome band spanning the taillamps and a new chrome exhaust tip. Other exterior changes are generally limited to colors and an all-new wheel lineup that includes a gleaming set of six-spoke 22-inch polished wheels on high-end models.
Speaking of high-end models, a new Platinum trim is positioned above the cowboy-spec King Ranch model for 2015. Both the Platinum and King Ranch get their own color combos and exterior trim finishes (satin metal for the Platinum, chrome everywhere and ginormous badges for the King Ranch) and posh, leather-lined interiors with their own aesthetic. The Expedition family also now includes a price-leading XL model, as well as XLT and Limited grades.