Ford to shut F-150 plant lengthy 11 weeks for aluminum re-do

10:12 PM, Jan 28, 2014   |    comments
The 2015 F-150 pickup makes its public debut at the Detroit auto show. In radical switch, the body is military-grade aluminum, not steel. Ford Motor
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Ford Motor says it will have to shut its main F-150 truck factory at Dearborn, Mich., an unusually long 11 weeks to make the changes necessary to build the the 2015 F-150 out of aluminum instead of steel.

The other F-150 factory, at Claycomo, Mo., will be down a brief two weeks during 2014 for the changeover, but will go through additional down time in 2015, Ford says.

General Motors shut its three pickup truck factories five, seven and nine weeks, spread across months, to change to building the redesigned, 2014 Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra, according to a report in Motor Trend magazine. GM wouldn't confirm that or offer specifics, "for competitive reasons."

The GM pickups are major overhauls, but continue to be made mainly of steel, not aluminum.

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Ford unveils 2015 F-150 at Detroit show

Ford's closings, spread over several months rather than being consecutive weeks, are a key reason that Ford has dropped its earnings forecast this year to a range of $7 billion to $8 billion.

Another: Discounts on leftover 2014s that Ford will clear off dealer lots to make way for the aluminum-body 2015 late this year, says Ford CFO Robert Shanks. .

Meantime, Ford says it is "maxing out" F-series production, so it won't run dry of its most-profitable product during the overhaul to aluminum.

The information came from Ford executives during a conference call today discussing the automaker's fourth-quarter and full-year earnings, and a phone interview with Shanks.

Ford is making the radical move to lighter-weight aluminum to cut the weight of its F-150 to boost fuel economy. Government mileage regulations are tightening and automakers will have to average 54.5 mpg in 2025.

That's a laboratory number that will translate to a window-sticker rating of roughly 39 mpg in combined city/highway driving.

A typical F-150 crew cab will weigh about 700 pounds less than now, Ford says. Some of that is a "catch-up" diet.

According to automakers' published specifications, Ford's GM and Ram rivals weigh about 100 to 250 lbs. less than a current F-150 crew cab V-8 with four-wheel drive, a popular configuration.

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