As important as the issue of fuel economy and emissions are to all midsize and full-size pickup buyers, a recent story has us scratching our heads.
According to a Bloomberg story, the new-generation Ford F-150 is one step from disaster. It says that the best-selling pickup truck in the world and the most technologically advanced in materials and engine performance is likely to fall short of meeting upcoming governmental emissions and fuel mileage targets.
The article implies that because the full-size pickup truck is making so much money for Ford, the company is less concerned about meeting emissions and fuel economy standards as they get more challenging through 2025. The writer insinuates that Ford is more likely to lobby the government to relax those targets than to try to meet them, even though Ford is coming to market this year with more V-6 engines, more stop-start technology and a new 10-speed transmission.
Another point in the article that throws a yellow flag for us is that it has a Washington D.C. research firm alleging that 40 percent of the F-150s Ford makes do not meet the 2016 standards for pickup trucks and identifies a 4x4 Super Cab V-6 as one of Ford's volume models. Not true.
Additionally, federal regulations apply to the overall nameplate, not to specific trim packages or cab configurations. That's why Ford and others have invested in diesels, hybrids, and other mileage-extending technologies for various higher-trim models so they still can offer simpler heavy-duty, high-torque V-8s. The truth is, according to a Ford spokesman, that the F-150 overall meets all 2016 federal requirements, just like the flagships from most other pickup manufacturers.
Although the article suggests Ford's cash-cow F-150 will have a hard time meeting the escalating fuel economy and emissions targets through 2025, let's not forget that's a long time. Take a quick spin back to 2007 and look at the F-150's 300-horsepower, 5.4-liter Triton V-8; the 250-hp, 4.6-liter Triton V-8; or the 200-hp, 4.2-liter V-6-all of them with cast-iron blocks and powering trucks made of steel. If we can come this far from 2007 through 2016, we're comfortable assuming that future technologies coming into play from 2016 to 2025 will make similar advances.
Just as a quick reminder: The technologies from the past decade that have improved power, emissions and fuel economy include more diesel and hybrid engines, turbochargers and superchargers allowing smaller- displacement engines, start-stop systems, 8- and 10-speed transmissions, automatic grille shutters, lighter aluminum and ultra-high-strength steel materials, and a host of more efficient technologies to reduce load on the engine, such as electric steering assist and air conditioning shut-off software.
The truth is that there's plenty of time, energy and money being spent in this arena because of these pickups' importance to their makers' profits and volume. You can bet they won't be left behind as the government pushes them to improve. If nothing else, the engineers' competitive juices will push them forward. Will the companies have to devote more money and resources? You bet. We'll have better pickups as a result, and the ones that perform best will sell more.
Although there's plenty to challenge in this article, probably the worst part is that the writer likely suffered the pain of seeing an editor rewrite the headline to be more sensational. Not only does the story smack of a hit-job on Ford, very little is said about its pickup competitors. Readers don't learn anything about how Chevy, Ram or Toyota are doing regarding the same issues. Maybe next time Bloomberg will do more research on the subject of pickups -- and do a better job of matching the headline with the article.