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F-150 may not be “Best Buy”

by Bill Cawthon on

Ram-Ford-Pickups-Web

The editors of KBB.com recently announced that the new Ford F-150 pickup is the “Best Buy” for 2015.

It’s a bit of a mystery how a truck that isn’t yet available for purchase and has no track record at all could be called a best buy. In addition, the specifications, capabilities and prices of the basic models would indicate there are better buys, including the Ram 1500.

When it comes to pricing, there would appear to be some adjustments being made by the folks in Dearborn. Pickups are normally among the more profitable vehicles sold in the U.S., but Ford alarmed financial markets in October when it said it wouldn’t know margins on the new F-150 until the second half of next year.

What is certain is that the new F-150 has higher costs. Aluminum currently sells for about $2,200/ton, compared to $630-$750/ton for sheet steel and $300/ton for recycled scrap steel. Due to the different processes needed to weld aluminum, Ford has switched its body building to a more costly method using of thousands of different-sized rivets and special adhesives.

Yet, with these increased costs, the new F-150 with a base 3.7-liter V6, regular cab and eight-foot bed, is priced just 1.6% higher than its 2014 predecessor.  This means Ford either cut some content or is eating a portion of those costs. If the latter is the case, fleet sales and incentives, if they’re offered, could be painful.

That might be a short-term bonus for buyers but the F-150 accounts for such a huge portion of Ford sales – 30% of total Ford Motor Company sales through the end of October – and profits that Ford either needs for the new F-150 to generate larger sales volumes than ever or it will need to raise prices to a more sustainable level, opening even more doors for the less-costly Ram.

In September, Morgan Stanley downgraded Ford stock to “underweight” and cut the target price a dollar to $16 — mostly due to Ford’s ongoing European issues, but partly due to uncertainty about the new F-150. According to a report in the Financial Times, Morgan Stanley analyst Adam Jonas made the changes because he expects margins to be lower because of upfront costs and competition from Ram and Chevrolet.

Another payoff for Ford buyers is supposed to be better fuel economy and, compared to previous F-150s, the new truck delivers. But other than the highly-touted 2.7-liter EcoBoost V6, the engines don’t yield significantly better mileage than competing gasoline-engine trucks from FCA and GM (and don’t come close to the Ram diesel). The 3.5-liter EcoBoost does have more horsepower and torque than competing V6s, but doesn’t have better standard towing or payload capacities. Ford’s “best-in-class” claims depend on specific configurations and the addition of optional equipment.

It’s likely that the F-150 supplied to KBB.com was a typical review vehicle: top-of-the-line Platinum SuperCrew with all the bells and whistles and a sticker price in excess of $50,000. General Motors and Ram typically do the same thing. Getting a real-world basic pickup in a press fleet is far less common.

But a best buy has to start with a good base, and when it comes to good bases, the Ram 1500 Tradesman is a formidable competitor – especially equipped with the Pentastar V6 and the 8-speed transmission.

Since neither Ram nor General Motors sell turbocharged gasoline engines and the Ford EcoBoost engines are expensive options, Allpar compared the Ford F-150 XL with the naturally-aspirated 3.7-liter Ti-VCT V6 and 5.0-liter Ti-VCT V8 engines to the Ram 1500 Tradesman and the Chevrolet Silverado 1500 WT. All trucks were configured with the standard automatic transmission, regular cab, and 8-foot box. Rear axle ratios were selected to be competitive. None of the trucks had any options other than the engine, box size, and axle ratio. No incentives were factored in to manufacturer suggested retail prices and destination charges are included.

2015 HALF-TON FULL-SIZE V6 PICKUPS
Brand, Model & Engine Axle City Hwy. Comb. HP Torque Towing Payload Price
Chevrolet Silverado 1500 WT 4.3-liter V6 3.23 18 24 20 285 305 6,100 1,950 $27,060
Ford F-150 XL 3.7-liter Ti-VCT V6 3.55 18 25 20 282 253 5,100 1,910 $26,915
Ram 1500 Tradesman 3.6-liter V6 3.55 17 25 20 305 269 6,300 1,900 $26,660
2015 HALF-TON FULL-SIZE V8 PICKUPS
Brand, Model & Engine Axle City Hwy. Comb. HP Torque Towing Payload Price
Chevrolet Silverado 1500 WT 5.3-liter V8 3.42 16 23 19 355 383 7,200 1,940 $28,155
Ford F-150 XL 5.0-liter Ti-VCT V8 3.55 15 22 18 385 387 9,200 1,930 $28,510
Ram 1500 Tradesman 5.7-liter Hemi V8 3.55 15 22 17 395 410 9,050 1,750 $27,985

As can be seen, the Ram 1500 Tradesman V6 is competitive in horsepower, torque, payload and towing capacity while coming in at a lower price. Furthermore, as Allpar has reported previously, the Ram’s body is going to be less costly to repair which could mean lower insurance costs.

On top of everything else, the Ram has a track record: twice Motor Trend Truck of the Year and the winner of the magazine’s recent half-ton pickup comparison; twice Truck of Texas and recipient of a shelf-full of other awards and recommendations.

Yes, the F-150 is shiny and new but “tried and true” usually trumps “shiny and new” when it comes to a credible “best buy.”

Bill Cawthon grew up in the auto industry in the 1950s. His Dad worked for Chrysler and Bill spent a number of Saturdays down on the plant floor at Dodge Main in Hamtramck. Bill is also the U.S. market correspondent for just-auto.com, a British auto industry publication, and a member of the Texas Auto Writers Association, which has named the Jeep Grand Cherokee the “SUV of Texas” several times and named the Ram 1500 as the “Truck of Texas” two years running.

Bill has owned five Plymouths (including the only 1962 “Texan”), one Dodge and one Chrysler and is still trying to figure out how to justify a Wrangler. He also has owned at least one of every 1:87 scale model of a Chrysler product. You can reach him directly at (206) 888-7324 or by using the form.


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