Why Cheap Gas Is Good for the 2015 Ford F-150
Cheap Gas and Better Fuel Economy is a Win-Win
Any radical change in the market is often met with skepticism and its share of detractors and naysayers criticizing the design or technology as “unproven” and “risky.” The 2015 Ford F-150 has received plenty of scrutiny from critics for its groundbreaking aluminum body and small-displacement powerplants. The introduction of the new, more efficient F-150 also happens to coincide with the lowest fuel prices this country has seen in half a decade. Some analysts have suddenly become bearish on Ford for taking such a major risk with its bread-and-butter moneymaker and emphasizing fuel economy in the midst of record-low fuel prices.
I’m sorry. I guess I’m missing something. Why exactly is better fuel economy ever a bad thing, even if gas is below $2 a gallon in many parts of the country? Certainly, there’s slightly less urgency in the purchase consideration when gas is cheap, but the premise that low fuel prices would hurt a vehicle’s sales is based on the premise that the rest of the product’s attributes are not compelling enough to attract buyers on their own merits. Sure, when oil was at $140+ a barrel, sales of Priuses went through the roof and sales of Suburbans and Expeditions plummeted. Yet, I would argue that pickups are a unique breed of vehicle, impervious from some of the same headwinds that affect passenger car and SUV sales. The fact of the matter is, there are some jobs that you can only do with a pickup. You can’t do them, or do them effectively, with a sedan or even an SUV.
Relative to passenger cars, pickups consume more fuel simply by virtue of their heavier weight and blockier aerodynamics. While computer-aided design has minimized this penalty over passenger cars to a large extent, there’s only so much cheating the laws of physics that’s possible, so that gap will always exist, although it’s much narrower than in years past.
Seasonal sales of trucks can be driven in large part by incentives and rebates, but more than 30 consistent, consecutive years of being the country’s best-selling vehicle makes an undeniable statement. The economy has gone through a lot of ups and downs in that period, but there’s no denying that America loves its trucks.
We may not have seen the last of cheap gas, with some analysts predicting oil prices could drop as low as $30 a barrel in 2015. But even with the prospect of gas at $1.50 a gallon, the F-150 is just as compelling as if it was at $5 a gallon. And Ford is not letting up on the quest for even better fuel efficiency, reportedly working on a hybrid version of the F-150 and hinting that it could even field a competitor to the Ram 1500 EcoDiesel.
As the saying goes, “a rising tide lifts all ships,” and between the Detroit Three, the trend toward improved fuel economy is undeniable. It’s partially driven by ever-rising CAFE standards, but according to many within the industry we’ve talked with, the demand is driven just as much by consumers as it is by government mandates. And if you don’t have a product that can meet customer expectations, aside from brand partisans, many customers are just as happy to go next door to your competitor.