Kremlinology & the 2015 Ford F-150

Gary S. Vasilash

Back in the days of the Cold War, there was a practice called “Kremlinology” in the West, wherein analysts (think: CIA) would take things like Pravda and try to figure out whether there was some deeper meaning that could be ferreted out from photos, quotes, and other coverage (vide, Three Days of the Condor).

While not wanting to get too carried away, when Ford last Thursday the availability of a snow-plow prep package for the 2015 F-150—the aluminum F-150—the word aluminum was strangely absent from the announcement.

2015 Ford F-150 Adds Snow Plow Prep Option

That is, Eric Peterson, Ford F-150 marketing manager stated in a release, “The new 2015 F-150 is the toughest F-150 ever, and by using more high-strength steel in its frame and advanced materials in the body, we’ve made the new truck up to 700 pounds lighter.”

He added, “This leads to more capability and better handling, which is exactly what you’d want for plowing. Adding a snow plow prep kit to our lineup helps ensure our customers have even more tools at their disposal to get the job done.”

But it is Peterson’s first sentence that deserves a little Kremlinology. The high-strength steel frame is what fundamentally makes snow plowing something that one can do with the truck (well, the powertrain and driveline contribute, too, but you know what I mean). The loads are taken by the frame, not the body. So in this case, it is the steel that matters.

Presumably the “advanced materials in the body” are the aluminum alloys used in the F-150, the “high-strength, military-grade, aluminum alloys” that were referred to when the truck was revealed last month at the North American International Auto Show.

But that’s not stated straight out.

Then there is the phrasing, “we’ve made the new truck up to 700 pounds lighter.” Note that the earlier part of the sentence refers to both the steel and the “advanced materials,” which could lead one to conclude that the 700-pound mass reduction isn’t predicated as much on the replacement of steel sheet metal in the body of the F-150 with aluminum as it is on a variety of factors, including stronger, lighter steel for the frame.

While this may be making a lot out of little, given the seeming significance of the utilization of aluminum in such an extensive way as they’re doing with the 2015 truck, it has clear consequences for designers, engineers and manufacturers alike.