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Mr. Crowley says Ford has also noticed that some Super Duty buyers are parking their trucks entirely until they need to use them and buying smaller cars, like the Ford Focus, to use for commuting. When fuel used to cost around $2 a gallon, they were driving their Super Dutys all the time.

The seismic shift in pickup truck buying preferences is also impacting Ford’s future powertrain lineup.

Reliable sources have told that Ford's anticipated big block “Boss” engine program recently had its scope greatly reduced.

The large displacement Boss V-8 was meant to go head-to-head with similar engines from Chrysler, General Motors and Toyota. A 6.2-liter version would have been the premiere gas engine for the new Ford F-150. Instead, sources say rapidly rising fuel prices and lower than expected fuel economy numbers have ended any hope of this motor reaching production in the F-150, as well as other Ford vehicles like the Mustang. Mileage concerns was one of the reasons the Boss engine program was originally killed before it was resurrected in 2006 by Mark Fields, Ford Americas president.

Asked by if the Boss engine program is in jeopardy, Mr. Fields said, "We've made a significant investment in it (the Boss engine). The program is moving forward but with lower volumes and only one displacement (engine)."

Development costs and rising gas prices ended development of the Boss engine, then known as the Hurricane, in 2005. Its 2006 revival was part of Fields' restructuring plan, a move that some say showed Fields' commitment to shaking up Ford's North American auto operations. The Boss' return was an attempt to maintain Ford's lead in the pickup truck market.

Instead of the Boss V-8, Ford will likely continue to rely on its modular family of V-8 engines, including the recently updated three-valve version of the 5.4-liter V-8. A new 5.0-liter modular V-8 is also rumored to be in the works.

Ford also is expecting its new line of smaller displacement EcoBoost engines to provide both power and fuel economy. A V-6 EcoBoost is expected to be able to produce V-8-like power.

F-150 fans concerned about what this means for F-150 power ratings should look to the upcoming 4.4 liter V-8 diesel, expected in 2010. That will be the premiere towing and hauling engine for the F-150.

It’s not known what impact the end of the Boss program in the F-150 might have on the rumored Raptor extreme off-roader or future Harley-Davidson edition pickup, where the Boss had also been expected. Both trucks could default to a supercharged 5.4-liter V-8. Sean Holman at Four Wheeler has additional information that's well worth a read.

Sources say the Boss program is still alive, for now, but only as a future engine for Ford’s Super Duty pickups, where it’s expected to replace the 6.8-liter gasoline V-10.

With all the sales shifts and news about changing product plans coming out of Dearborn, Ford’s truck team continues to remember there’s one constant about big pickup trucks.

“You can’t build America with Priuses. You have to have the trucks,” says Mr. Crowley.

For additional information about Ford's Boss engine program and its recent changes, check out Amy Wilson's story at Automotive News.

Check out Sean Holman's story at Four Wheeler to find out what impact the loss of the Boss in the F-150 could have on the Raptor off-road pickup.

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