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Biggest model transition in Ford history begins Friday

Alden Jewell
The first F-series truck made by Ford in 1948.

Pickup trucks are the most profitable and popular vehicle in the United States, keeping hundreds of thousands of American farmers, ranchers, and small companies in business.

And Ford's F-150 is the king of all the pickup trucks. It's been the best-selling vehicle of any kind for decades.

On Friday evening, the last 2014 model year F-150 pickup truck rolls off the assembly line at the Dearborn Truck Plant.

Then the work begins to prepare the plant to build the next version – a groundbreaking truck with a mostly aluminum body. 

Using the lighter-weight metal in place of steel is expected to result in significant fuel-economy savings. 

Bruce Hettle is Ford's Vice President of North American manufacturing. He says Ford will need to build an all-new body shop for the new truck. 

Normally that changeover would take 16 weeks. 

But since Ford can't afford to fall behind in truck sales, they'll do it in eight.
"We'll see upwards that first week of 1,100 semis or tractor-trailers of new equipment," says Hettle. "We'll have upwards of 1,500 people working 24 hours a day, around the clock, and we have literally an orchestrated construction schedule down to the minute. So we'll move really, really quick. We won't waste any time, and we'll bring the new manufacturing process back up to life."

Competitors are closely watching Ford to see how it manages the transition and how customers respond to the new, lighter truck. 

Tracy Samilton covers energy and transportation, including the auto industry and the business response to climate change for Michigan Radio. She began her career at Michigan Radio as an intern, where she was promptly “bitten by the radio bug,” and never recovered.