DETROIT Ford Motor Co (F.N) will offer a peek at its upcoming F-150 pickup truck at the Detroit auto show next month, the latest example of attempted one-upmanship in the highly competitive American truck market.
The teaser for the 2015 F-150 takes direct aim at General Motors Co (GM.N), two people familiar with Ford's plans said. GM's new trucks, which the automaker unveiled this week, are its most crucial launches since its bankruptcy restructuring in 2009.
But GM's redesign, shown to reporters and analysts on Thursday, were "evolutionary, not revolutionary," said Barclays Capital analyst Brian Johnson in a research note Friday, echoing a sentiment expressed by several other analysts.
This provides an opening for Ford to seize attention from the No. 1 U.S. automaker's lineup during the Detroit show, one of the industry's most anticipated events of the year.
Ford, which declined to confirm its plans to show the truck, aims to launch the 2015 F-150 in the fall of 2014. GM will introduce its new trucks, the 2014 Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra, in the second quarter of 2013.
The two largest American automakers are fierce competitors in the full-size pickup segment, which accounts for about 11 percent of the U.S. auto market. But in their latest redesigns, the two U.S. rivals have diverged in their focus, with Ford placing more emphasis on fuel economy.
In his note, Johnson said GM's new trucks will make the company more competitive in the pickup truck market and narrow the gap with Ford on prices. But "they will not displace Ford as leader in the highly profitable U.S. full-size pickup segment, unless Ford misfires on quality in its 2014 F-150 relaunch," he added.
JOCKEYING FOR PROFIT
The F-series, which has been the best-selling U.S. vehicle for 30 years, and sport-utility derivatives such as the Expedition account for more than 90 percent of Ford's global profit, according to Morgan Stanley auto analyst Adam Jonas.
The current versions of the big trucks and related SUVs generate profit of $12,000 or more per vehicle and account for about 60 percent of GM's global profit, analysts said.
This kind of money often leads to jockeying for bragging rights over who has the toughest truck with the most towing capacity or highest fuel efficiency.
For example, GM ran a TV commercial during this year's NFL Super Bowl game depicting several Silverado owners arriving at a prearranged meeting point during the apocalypse. But one of their friends, a Ford driver, fails to show up, implying that Ford trucks are less rugged and durable.
Ford called on GM to pull the ad, citing insurance industry data that showed Ford trucks were safer. GM refused to comply.
This week, GM touted the new trucks' power and torque, as well as a quieter cab and additional safety features. Meanwhile, Ford is pushing to boost fuel economy of its new F-150 by 15 to 20 percent, in part by using lighter materials.
In its F-150 overhaul, Ford is looking to shave an average of 700 to 750 pounds from each vehicle through extensive use of aluminum as well as a redesign of components including brakes and axles. The prototype to be shown next month will provide strong visual clues to the design of the new F-150.
(Additional reporting by Paul Lienert in Detroit; editing by Matthew Lewis)