As lighter F-150s roll out, Ford CEO says buyers care about fuel economy

The price of gas rises and falls in cycles, but buyers of the Ford F-150, the best-selling vehicle in the United States the past three decades, have consistently had one complaint: the poor fuel economy of the truck.

Ford Motor Co. CEO Mark Fields thinks the company has solved that problem with the 2015 model F-150 now rolling off the assembly line at Ford’s plant in Dearborn, Mich. The new version is 700 pounds lighter, owing to the body consisting almost exclusively of aluminum, instead of heavier steel.

Although the truck’s gas-mileage figures won’t be announced by the company until later this month, AP’s story notes:

The company says the 2015 truck will have from 5 percent to 20 percent better fuel economy than the current version, which gets up to 23 mpg. A figure in the higher end of that range might convince some buyers to switch brands, says Jesse Toprak, chief sales analyst for the car buying site

Fields told CNBC’s “Squawk Box” program that better fuel efficiency has been the “biggest customer unmet need, the biggest dissatisfier” in the past.

What about the effect cheap gasoline has on buyer behavior? He was asked whether consumers care less about fuel economy when gasoline is as cheap as it has suddenly become — around $3 a gallon, or even less in some places.

“They’re much smarter these days,” Fields said, adding that prices are volatile. “Our long-term view is, over time, the price of a barrel of oil is gonna go up. It’s a non-renewable resource.”

(Photo: Ford Motor Co.)