Cleveland, Ohio – With the North American International Auto Show (NAIAS) cancelled this year, several major vehicle launches are taking place in online events and press release, none more important than Ford’s F-150 pickups.
The best-selling truck in the U.S. for more than four decades, the F-150 is one vehicle that Ford simply cannot afford to get wrong. The vast majority of the company’s profits come from the F-Series line with the F-150 bringing in the lion’s share.
Several times throughout the past 10 years, Ford has also use the F-150 as a sort of Moon Shot product, an all-or-nothing, bet-the-future-of-the-company shot at market dominance. Replacing the V-8 premium with a turbocharged Ecoboost V-6 in 2011 or swapping steel body panels for aluminum in 2015 come to mind.
The 2021 model is less of a revolution along those lines and more of an evolution as Ford continues adding new options and features but keeping things similar enough to keep its fans loyal.
New for 2021:
- Hybrid option – The automaker isn’t sharing performance specs yet, but the gas-electric hybrid model will not be a pure economy play. The Powerboost engine mates the twin-turbo Ecoboost 3.5L V-6 with a electric motors. The company is targeting 700 miles of range and 12,000 lb in towing capacity from the hybrid. The existing F-150 gets 375hp and 470 lb-ft of torque, and Ford engineers are promising the hybrid model will more of both. The 35kW (47hp) electric motor will be powered by a 1.5kW/h lithium-ion battery, slightly larger than the 1.4kW/h battery it uses in current hybrids such as the Fusion sedan.
- Exterior cosmetics – The truck’s front fenders are slightly higher, giving it a taller overall look, and the wheels are larger and slightly farther apart (0.75” farther out per wheel). Buyers will have 11 grille options, depending on model selected. Some changes are more functional, such as grille shutters that can limit airflow through the engine compartment to improve fuel economy when the engine doesn’t need cooling.
- Tech upgrades – The truck will be able to update software over-the-air, eliminating the need to visit dealers for minor patches. Updates to the Sync connectivity system support more apps and add-on services. And, on hybrid and non-hybrid models, users will be able to use the truck’s engine as a generator to run tools and other devices.
- Safety – Some optional features are now standard, such as pedestrian-detection systems and an emergency system that pre-tensions seatbelts if it senses an accident is about to take place. Late next year, the truck will offer Active Drive Assist, Ford’s answer to Tesla’s autopilot or General Motors’ SuperCruise, a system that will allow drivers to take their hands off wheel in some cruise situations. That feature will come as an over-the-air update.
Ford Chief Operating Officer Jim Farley said, “F-150 is our flagship, it’s 100% assembled in America, and we hold ourselves to the highest standard to make sure our customers can get the job done and continue to make a difference in their communities.”
Ford makes the F-150 in Dearborn, Michigan; and Claycomo, Missouri.
About the author: Robert Schoenberger is the editor of Today's Motor Vehicles and Today's eMobility and a contributor to Today's Medical Developments and Aerospace Manufacturing and Design. He has written about the automotive industry for more than 20 years at The Plain Dealer in Cleveland, Ohio; The Courier-Journal in Louisville, Kentucky; and The Clarion-Ledger in Jackson, Mississippi.