Gear Up to Produce Full-Sized Pickups
Paul Lienert is Editor and Publisher of Global Auto Insider and GlobalAutoNet.com
Reprinted with Permission. © 2002, Paul Lienert, Global Auto Insider
A major battle
is brewing in the full-size truck segment, and not just among the Detroit
are significant: Ford and General Motors between them sell more than 1.5
million full-size pickups a year in North America, and the Ford F-series
outsells the Honda Accord and the Toyota Camry by more than two to one.
then, that cash-strapped Ford is spending $1.5 billion to substantially
revamp the F-150 in June
2003, about nine months later than originally planned. And no surprise,
either, that Honda is close to giving the green light to a full-size-truck
program that would rival Toyota and Nissan in challenging the U.S. automakers
in one of their traditional strongholds.
say the redesigned 2004 F-series (code name P221) will look more tough
and rugged than the current PN96 series. "It will out-tough the Dodge
Ram," predicts one source.
We also hear
that Ford plans to offer the next F-150 in something like five different
flavors, each with unique grille, trim, wheels, and tires. There will
still be room in the stable for such derivatives as the SVT Lightning
and the Harley-Davidson, with the marketing wizards forecasting a big
increase in volume for all quad-cab models.
some of those new F-series pickups are expected to use the new independent
rear suspension developed for the redesigned 2003 Ford Expedition and
Lincoln Navigator utility vehicles, as well as to share many of their
there doesn't seem to be a direct replacement for the Lincoln Blackwood
in the current plan. And the F-350 Super Duty (code name P131) isn't scheduled
to be overhauled now until model year 2006, when it is expected to get
some of the design cues previewed recently on the Mighty Tonka concept.
have its new GMT900 family of full-size trucks ready before model year
2006, and that plan could easily slip a year, according to vendors. What
they anticipate is an extensive reworking of the current GMT800 platform,
rather than a ground-up redesign.
To tide over
dealers and customers until then, the corporation later this summer will
begin building the restyled 2003
Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra pickups, which were previewed recently
at the Chicago auto show. Both models receive more distinctive exterior
designs, with the Silverado adapting the signature face of the Avalanche.
Both trucks also get interior makeovers but no major chassis or driveline
However, for model year 2004, GM will introduce its updated Gen IV truck
engines, which are cleaner, more efficient, and a bit more powerful than
the current Gen III powerplants. GM also hopes to begin producing some
truck engines with its innovative "displacement
on demand" cylinder-cutoff system, which permits big V-8s under
part throttle to operate more efficiently with only four cylinders. There
is also a gas/electric hybrid powertrain in the works for 2004-05.