Ford raising prices on lighter weight aluminum F-150 pickups

Ford Motor Co. is raising prices on its new aluminum-bodied F-Series pickup by $395 to $3,615 as it tries to convince drivers to embrace a more advanced truck with the best fuel economy ever offered by the automaker.

Ford dealers Tuesday began taking orders for the new truck that’s due in showrooms later this year, Mike Levine, a spokesman for the Dearborn, Michigan-based company, said in an interview.

The base model 2015 XL F-150 starts at $26,615, up $395 or 1.5 percent, while the top-end Platinum version starts at $52,155, up $3,055, or 6.2 percent. The biggest increase is on the King Ranch F-150, which now starts at $49,460, up $3,615, or 7.9 percent, Levine said.

Ford is betting a lightweight, aluminum-bodied pickup with fuel economy that may approach 30 miles per gallon on the highway will entice buyers to pay a premium for the F-Series, its top selling and most profitable model. The second-largest U.S. automaker also is packing the new truck with extra standard features, such as 8-inch digital dashboard displays, LED lights, inflatable seat belts and heated rear seats, Levine said.

“Aluminum is more costly than steel, but the price increases that we’re giving our customers reflect the added content, not the materials,” Levine said. “Our customers are also getting improved performance and better efficiency.”

The increases, especially on the high-end Platinum and King Ranch models, will enable Ford to restore a price advantage of $3,000 to $4,000 over General Motors Co.’s pickups, Brian Johnson, a Barclays analyst, wrote Tuesday in a note. The smaller price increase on the low-end F-150 models will help Ford fend off a surge by the Chrysler Group's Ram truck.

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GM, CHRYSLER
The sticker price of the F-150 “increases only modestly at the base end, but dramatically at the upper end,” Johnson wrote. “Ford is likely trying to signal to the dealer base that it expects to remain competitive in the lower end of the market [where the Ram has made inroads], while reinforcing its price leadership in upper trim levels.”

About 70 percent of Ford’s F-150 sales are in the base XL and XLT models, where prices rose the least, Johnson said. Its midlevel Lariat, which generates 15 percent of F-150 sales, rises $895 or 2.3 percent, to start at $39,880, Levine said.

Upgrading to the 3.5-liter turbocharged EcoBoost V-6 will get $100 cheaper, Levine said. That engine is now a $1,995 upgrade from the base, non-turbocharged 3.7 liter V-6, he said. Previously, the 3.5 liter engine option cost $2,095. A new and smaller 2.7 liter EcoBoost V-6 will cost $495, Levine said.

PRODUCTION BREAK
Ford is set to lose production of more than 90,000 F-Series pickups as it shuts its two factories making the models for 13 weeks this year to convert them to produce the aluminum truck. The automaker said on July 24 that the conversion will crimp profits in the second half of the year.

The F-150 arriving in showrooms at year’s end sheds more than 700 pounds to improve fuel economy, mostly by using aluminum instead of steel in its body. In 2013, Ford’s F-Series truck was the top-selling vehicle line in the U.S. for the 32nd consecutive year, with sales rising 18 percent to 763,402. That helped drive Ford’s North American pretax profits to a record $8.78 billion last year.

“The F-150 changeover to aluminum is the largest, most complicated launch in the history of the company,” Adam Jonas, an analyst with Morgan Stanley with an “overweight” rating on Ford, said in an interview last week. “It’s going to be a very painful process. They won’t know until they turn the machine on how the products will be.”

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