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New-look F-150 confirmed, but challenges expected

Australia gets superseded F-150 just weeks after Ford revealed facelifted model in US

29 Sep 2023

AUSTRALIA’S first examples of Ford F-150 are only just starting to roll out of the RMA remanufacturing facility in Melbourne, yet there is already a new-look, updated version of the super-selling pick-up truck on the road in the North American market.


That updated version – which has changes to headlights, front-end styling, taillights and some other components – might make potential customers think they are getting the ‘old’ F-150 in Australia, but the brand has confirmed it will offer the new-look model in about 12 months’ time.


“It’ll be late next year. It’s a fair way off,” said Ford Australia CEO Andrew Birkic.


The Aussie arm of the Blue Oval brand will need to do a vast amount of work for the new version, as it already does with the current one.


Changes made to the current F-150 remanufactured here in Australia include a new cast magnesium cross-car beam and injection moulded instrument panel carrier, new dash and cowl sheet metal in-fill panels, new climate control air handling unit, ducting and heater hoses and new door switches.


Also new are the major electrical harnesses for instrument panel, engine, body, trailer and seats, the latter requiring major work including remanufacturing of the driver’s seat memory function.


The instrument panel, including topper panels and decorative trim had to be replaced along with a right-hand drive transmission shifter assembly and console bezels, new brake pedal assembly and brake lines plus matching carpets with driver footrest.


A Ranger Raptor right-hand drive steering rack was adapted for purpose, requiring a replacement intermediate shaft assembly and recalibrated steering feature software.


Australian-specific software for SYNC, instrument cluster, audio and climate control systems was created, while a DAB+ digital radio tuner and locally compatible modem were implemented to enable the full suite of FordPass connected features.


Other requirements for the Australian market were a new towbar assembly plus 4500kg hitch and 70mm ball, as well as child restraint anchors.


External changes include remanufactured headlights, modified exterior mirrors with new wedges and bezels and new wiper linkages and blades with matching cowl grille.


According to Ford Australia F-150 assistant chief program engineer Tom Dohrmann, the current Lariat version’s headlights are the most taxing element of the build.


“Effectively, what we have to do is remanufacture the entire Lariat headlamp,” he said.


“What we do is drop the left-hand drive unit on our CNC router, we cut the unit apart, we tear it right back to basically a whole bunch of bits and components. We will replace a lens, a reflector, and rebuild the entire headlight with new components as well.


“And that’s specifically around getting through ADR (Australian Design Rules), it’s a significant undertaking. You can’t merely pull the headlights apart, you have to cut them to bits, rebuild them, re-test them, and then quality sign-off and fit back to the vehicle.”


Another potential difficulty for the introduction of the so-called 2024 F-150 (which will likely be a 2025 model for Australia) is the inclusion of a head-up display.


“We’re looking at it,” said Mr Dohrmann, relaying that the changes required for the dashboard finishing and design will become more complicated.


Ford Australia CEO Adrew Birkic said the business knows that there may be demand for other models from customers, but that his team, and the team at RMAA, will not overcommit themselves.


“What we’re focused on is keeping it simple for now, and keeping a very open mind about the future,” he said.


Mr Birkic made it clear that adding more variants and different drivetrains – like a petrol-electric hybrid, which is offered in the US, or a V8 petrol engine, which is also still sold there – is not on the cards.


“You can draw your own conclusions, but from a complexity perspective, we just can’t do too much,” he said.


“From a scale perspective, we just have to pick our bets and go for it. If you look at the size and the scale of what they do in the US, they already have their own complexity.


“So, again, for us to get this done, we couldn’t go in and say ‘we want the Earth, the stars and the moon’. We just said, ‘this is what we want’, and recognise there will be some issues with that, but we need to work through that.”


For the current model, Mr Dohrmann said the big ticket item that Australia could not get but the brand would have liked to have offered is BlueCruise, the brand’s semi-autonomous cruise control system.


“BlueCruise is an advanced driver assist technology, it’s all-hands off on freeways, and it works really well in the US, but it relies less on the vehicle and more on the infrastructure side of things,” he added.


“So, it was a bit disappointing that we took one piece out of the vehicle because we couldn’t deliver the feature.”


Ford Australia F-150 program manager Peter Zikas confirmed that the company has seen a reasonably strong demand for the XLT but that the much more expensive and feature-laden Lariat is expected to command the greatest volume of sales.


“The majority we expect to be the Lariat, but the demand for the XLT is actually quite high, particularly from the regional markets. So, it’ll probably be around a 35 per cent (XLT) to 65 per cent (Lariat) split,” he said.


Mr Zikas also confirmed that the current status of short- or long-wheelbase orders shows the split is quite close there, too, with approximately 60 per cent choosing the short-wheelbase version, and 40 per cent going for the longer model, which adds a foot of tub space and gains side markers due to its six-metre-plus body length.


The price increase for the SWB to LWB step-up is minimal, at just $995 for both XLT and Lariat models. The entry-level XLT starts at $106,950 before on-road costs and the Lariat lists from $139,950 + ORC.


It is expected that the RMA Automotive remanufacturing facility in Mickleham, Victoria, will produce approximately 5000 F-150 models in its first year of full-scale operation.

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