The much anticipated launch of Ford’s flagship pick up truck in Australia the F150 signals another entry in the increasingly competitive and growing market for full size US pick ups in this country.
In reality it is a re launch of the model, which is America’s top selling model plate, with annual sales of 650,000, having been here before at various times over many decades. This time however, Ford is very serious about capturing a slice of the burgeoning Australian appetite for big US designed and engineered pick up trucks.
Truck & Bus News was fortunate enough to score an invitation to the local media launch and came away impressed with the ‘truck’ and got to sample it across a variety of city and rural roads as well as in a number of towing exercises.
Ford Australia has entered a relationship with RMA Australia to ‘re-manufacture’ the F150 at an impressive new factory at Mickleham on the northern outskirts of Melbourne , where it plans to turn out about about 20 F150s a day, which indicates that Ford hopes to capture similar sales number embers to its rival RAM, which is currently selling north of 5000 per year in Australia.
In what is an increasingly crowded market for the big US utes, Ford will join with its V6 EcoBoost 3.5 litre powered models, u0p against the V8 utes from RAM and Chevy with Toyota’s US source Tundra set to also enter the ‘corral’ sometime in 2024.
If Ford does achieve its ambition of selling all that RMA can remanufacture in its 21,000sq metre plant, then the F150 will become the brands third biggest selling model, behind its runaway success, Ranger and its ever popular Mustang.
Exactly how big Australia’s appetite is for the US pick up will be revealed over the next couple of years as the big four battle it out with their own variants on the big ute theme.
Ford it seems is very confident that the market research and intelligence it has gathered will result in it moving plenty of F150s down under, not the least being because it believes its V6 petrol power will offer a fuel consumption advantage over the V8 models from RAM and Chevy.
The F150s offered in Australia will come in two specs, the XLT priced from around $106,000 and the more up market Lariat, at $140,000 roughly, plus on roads. Neither model offers many options with Ford instead choosing to offer high equipment levels across both models, with a choice of ling and short wheelbase variants and special paint being the two boxes to potentially available to tick for prospective buyers.
The 3.5 litre V6 petrol engine is mated to Ford’s ten speed automatic while one of the big attractions for many buyers will be the massive 4.5 tonne towing capacity of both models. The Lariat comes with 20 inch chrome alloy wheels, a T Bar shifter for the automatic, as opposed to the XLT’s column shift, an integrated 12-inch centre multi-function touchscreen, satellite navigation system, wireless charging and a Bang & Olaffsson ‘Unleashed’ sound system featuring 18 speakers. It also gets leather-accented seats, power sliding rear window and twin panel power moonroof, as well as heated and ventilated driver and front passenger seats , along with a leather wrapped steering wheel.
The ‘entry’ level XLT comes with its own distinctive grille to distinguish it from its more expensive sibling, while it also receives different 20 inch alloy wheels and it has a smaller an integrated 8-inch centre multi-function touchscreen, a configurable 8-inch digital instrument cluster, satellite navigation system, as well as Fords’s SYNC4 phone integration with Voice-Activated Controls and Apple CarPlay as well as Android Auto as part of its infotainment system. Te XLT interior features cloth trimmed seats utilises durable, dark materials which Ford says don’t compromising comfort. The XLT also gets a 60/40 split rear seat with under seat storage offers increased flexibility.
Both models also get a fascinating and ingenious trailer reversing aid that enables cameras, and a dial controlled steering input to back large trailers into tight spaces with relative ease. We would like more time to acclimatise to the system but initially we reckon it might prove a winner for the F150.
Like its rivals Ford brings the F150s in from its Dearborn plant in Detroit direct to the RMA Mickleham facility, completely built up in left had drive. RMA then proceeds to disassemble the models and ‘re-0manufacture’ them using around 500 new parts with more than 200 personnel manning the facility.
Ford says its Australian F-150s are subject to an uncompromising and detailed re-manufacturing process. As well as the 500 newly sourced parts it says the process also requires recalibration of key systems to suit Australian needs, including the steering, climate control, lighting systems, as well as the instrument panel and software upgrades.
The RMA facility can complete the re-manufacture of up to 20 F-150s each day, using an assembly line with 65 individual stations. The re-manufacturing process takes around 22 working hours over three days to complete for each vehicle.
“We have a long legacy to uphold when it comes to the F-150 – for 75 years, this truck has captured the hearts of customers with its unbeatable capability and comfort, said Tom Dohrmann, Ford Australia’s F-150 Assistant chief program engineer.
The F-Series has also been the highest selling vehicle line in the U.S. for more than 40 years so to be able to offer this iconic vehicle to Australians is a privilege,” Dohrmann said.
“It really speaks to our local engineering know-how and our Product Development team is collaborating closely with RMA Automotive to bring customers the same ‘Built Ford Tough’ F-150, re-manufactured to meet local design rules and regulations,” he said.
The company in collaboration with Ford Australia engineers has developed an entirely new Heating Air con and Ventilation (HVAC) unit for the locally re made F150s, as well as re manufacturing the vehicles headlights to suit the right hand drive orientation and also cleverly adapted the right hand drive steering rack from its right hand drive Australian developed Ranger to ensure that the big US ute steers properly with good feel and response after having its wheel moved to the opposite side of the cab.
Although not well known in Australia, RMA has more than 30 years of engineering expertise and is considered one of the world’s leading suppliers of modified vehicles, claiming to have delivered more than 100,000 modified vehicles delivered globally to date.
Ford says its relationship with RMA dates back to 1997, with projects in markets including Europe, North America, the Asia Pacific, Africa and the Middle East.
Only time will tell how many F150s Ford can sell in Australia , but if the impressive conversion operation and extensive homework that the local Blue Oval operation has put in ahead of the local launch is anything to go by, the F150 should be a winner. The first models are set to be delivered to customers in early November.