Already the truck volume leader with its F-Series line of trucks, Ford is not content resting on its laurels, which include the F-150 being named the 2012 Motor Trend Truck of the Year award and stronger-than-expected sales of models equipped with the EcoBoost V-6. With steeply-increasing fuel economy standards right around the corner, Ford is facing the prospect of having to cut several hundred pounds from the F-150's weight while assuring customers that there is no reduction in durability, payload, and towing capacities, all of which are critical attributes for fullsize truck buyers.

According to a report in the Wall Street Journal, the path to higher-mileage future Ford trucks is with extensive use of aluminum. Although other automakers have produced aluminum-framed-and-bodied vehicles, none have approached the potential production numbers that the F-150 would represent, and none have been fullsize trucks. The next F-150 will retain a body-on-frame chassis typical of fullsize trucks and will most likely retain a steel frame for durability and lower cost than could be achieved with an aluminum frame.

The weight reduction target on the next-generation F-150 is in the area of 700-800 pounds, a percentage reduction of approximately 15 percent. The F-150 currently has an aluminum hood, but the next model could employ aluminum for most, if not all of its body panels.

Source: Wall Street Journal (subscription required)