Severe winter weather made many central Texas roads impassable this week, but that didn’t stop the Ford F-Series team from demonstrating the power and capability of its new Super Duty pickups — including the all-new F-450 — for automotive media from around North America.
For 30 years, Ford F-Series has been the undisputed leader in the Lone Star State and commands more than a third of Texas’ full-size pickup market share. It outsells all General Motors full-size pickups in total as well as the collective full-size entries of Dodge, Toyota and Nissan . F-Series increased its market share despite flat sales in 2006 due in part to the decline in new residential construction. Ford aims to fortify its commanding position when the new Super Duty line-up arrives in dealerships in February.
"The new Super Duty line-up is a key component to F-Series’ continued dominance in Texas and across the nation," said Mark Fields, Ford ’s president of The Americas. "Every aspect of the truck is the result of spending a great deal of time listening to our customers. There’s no other family of trucks like this."
Ford already has tallied 40,000 dealer orders for the new heavy duty pickups. Super Duty represents 40 percent of F-Series sales, which numbered just under 800,000 last year. More than 725,000 customers already have visited InsideSuperDuty.com, spending more time on the site and viewing more pages than truck customers are known to do on other new product sites.
Although Ford continues to dominate the Texas truck market, the company is well aware that every other player in the segment is gunning for more market share in the state. In fact, all F-Series competitors have a Texas edition truck and unique ads for the market that use local imagery.
"There’s no question that the pickup truck market is highly competitive and it’s just going to get tougher in 2007 with the new Toyota Tundra and new GM pickups. However, we have no intentions of giving the competition an inch," said Mark Grueber, Ford strategic marketing manager for the Southwest market.
Ben Poore, Ford Truck marketing manager, added, "We always try to raise the bar in capability, power, innovation, refinement and style."
Approximately 150 media members braved ice and snow to travel to Texas and test the Super Duty under inclement conditions, rife with mud and ice, and came away satisfied with the truck’s capability.
At the ride-and-drive event, journalists from such diverse publications as Truck Trend, The Houston Sun and Auto Week got a hands-on proof of the new F-450 Super Duty’s towing capability, which exceeds 24,000 pounds and its maximum payload of more than 6,000 pounds. The truck’s performance capability was heavily influenced by customer feedback. In fact, 90 percent of Super Duty customers tow, and nearly two-thirds use it purely as a work truck.
"There’s real demand for that kind of towing power,” said Jeff Dusing, managing editor of RV Xtreme Magazine.
"Over Thanksgiving weekend, there were about 200,000 people with large RVs at the sand dunes in Glamis, Calif. We’re talking about 45-foot toy haulers with dune buggies and motorcycles and living quarters being pulled by F-550s.”
The F-Series trucks have refined chassis and suspension to improve ride and handling, a TowCommand™ system with integrated trailer brake controller and TorqShift™ transmission that improves towing performance.
"Having the trailer brakes integrated with the truck’s ABS is absolutely necessary for safety," said Jonathan Mark of Auto Age USA. "It’s an impressive feature on this truck."
"The F-450 is exactly what the RV market has needed for a long time," said Jeff Johnson, automotive editor of Trailer Life. Johnson also feels the fifth-wheel towing package is a tremendous advantage for the Super Duty.
The new F-450 pickup boasts a new 6.4-liter Power Stroke ® clean-diesel engine for clean, quiet power. The torque is maximized at around 2,000 rpm for hauling big loads. Plus, diesels typically can improve fuel economy in the range of 25 to 30 percent over a comparable gasoline-powered engine, although the fuel economy varies depending on vehicle type and load conditions.
"I’ll tell you how quiet this diesel is," said Peter Mathiesen, automotive editor for Lonestar Outdoors magazine. "Riding in it I had to ask if it was a diesel, and I was thinking it wasn’t. It’s smooth, powerful and really, really quiet."
Don Stewart, owner of the Oak Tree Ranch in Kerrville, Texas, said, "The diesel is so dang quite, it’s unreal."
In addition, the whole Super Duty line-up features a host of innovative features, such as the available, industry-first Integrated Tailgate step, stowable bed extender for cargo-hauling flexibility, and the industry’s first power-fold and power-telescoping side mirrors.
"The Tailgate step simply eliminates the need to carry along a step ladder," said Jim Meachen, automotive writer for the Los Angeles Daily News and Oakland Tribune. "It’s one of those things that just makes sense. Ford is every bit as good as the new (Toyota) Tundra in rear legroom and space."
Scott Burgess of The Detroit News, added, "You want to be able to get out of muck and trouble, and this does it for you."
Ford conducted approximately 10 million durability test miles on the 2008 Super Duty in order to deliver high-quality trucks to customers who hold durability and reliability as primary purchase considerations. In addition, a new $65 million trim line was installed at KTP to assemble the truck’s "tough luxury" interior. The new line includes a doors-off process for improved quality and ergonomics.
"It’s not what you expect of a truck interior," said Madelyn Miller of CarLadyNews.com and TravelLady.com. "It’s more like a luxury vehicle with the functionality of a truck."
Sharfman added, "People who use these trucks for work practically live in them, so a nice interior with creature comforts like heated seats and entertainment options is a strong selling point and a competitive necessity."
David Goodspeed of Auto World Today, said, "I fell in love with the new interior. It’s like driving a luxury Range Rover on the off-road course." Goodspeed feels there is a night-and-day difference between the 2007 and 2008 Super Duty, with the ’08 offering much better value.
Ford’s Kentucky Truck Plant is exclusively responsible for producing the Super Duty line, which includes models from the F-250 through the F-550. The plant has produced more than 5 million trucks since starting production in 1969. Ford will complete the redesign of its F-Series light-truck lineup when it launches a new F-150 sometime in mid-2008.
"Ford has stayed close to its utilitarian truck roots," said David Kennedy of Diesel Power magazine. "It’s the last real truck made in the USA."