April 2, 2013 / 8:31 PM / in 5 years

Ford says it expects F-150 pickup truck to hold off GM challenge

DETROIT, April 2 (Reuters) - Ford Motor Co, maker of the top-selling F-150 full-size pickup truck, expects to keep its market leadership despite top rival General Motors Co’s introduction of redesigned, more fuel-efficient models.

Ford officials on Tuesday said their truck offers consumers a better overall package in the lucrative segment than GM’s 2014 Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra, whose fuel economy figures and pricing the company revealed on Monday.

GM and Ford are rivals in the U.S. truck market, which accounts for about 12 percent of auto sales and offers fat profit margins that can exceed $12,000. The truck segment is especially hot this year as the U.S. housing market recovers.

“My point of view is irrespective of what the competitive automakers will come out with, including their putting their finger on one data point or another, consumers will continue to see the overall value,” Ken Czubay, head of Ford’s U.S. marketing, sales and service, said during a conference call about U.S. auto sales in March.

On Monday, GM intensified the battle, saying the eight-cylinder engine on its new trucks will offer a combined 19 miles per gallon. That is a one-mile per-gallon (MPG) advantage to the Ford F-150 six-cylinder, turbocharged engine.

A day later, Ford officials tried to shift the focus and emphasized that buyers look at the truck’s full capability, not just fuel economy, even though mileage is important. The F-150 is still more powerful than the new GM truck lineup, they said.

GM officials have touted their trucks’ advantages when it comes to total cost of ownership.

Fuel economy has been Ford’s calling card since Chief Executive Alan Mulally arrived in 2006. The company’s strategy is centered around improving fuel efficiency across its lineup by cutting vehicle weight and deploying its turbocharging technology called EcoBoost.

Ford expects to boost fuel economy of its next F-150, due next year, by as much as a fifth, partly by using more lightweight materials.

In March, Ford sold 67,513 of its F-Series of pickup trucks, which includes the F-150, up 16.3 percent from the year before. GM sold a combined 53,378 of its Silverado and Sierra trucks, which was up 6 percent.

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