Hybrid F-150 pickup trucks could be rolling off assembly lines by the end of the decade as part of Ford’s agenda for the near future.
The automaker also is looking into ride-booking services, CEO Mark Fields said recently. And it was reported Tuesday, but not confirmed by the companies, that Google and Ford will team up to make self-driving vehicles. Yahoo cited unnamed sources saying Fields would announce the joint venture in January at the Consumer Electronics Show.
The F-series pickups, made at Claycomo and at a plant in Michigan, have been the best-selling U.S. vehicle for nearly 35 years. Ford hasn’t said specifically that a hybrid F-150 will be made, but Fields told National Public Radio last week that “we’re working on electrified F-series” models and “do have plans to have a rear-wheel-drive hybrid truck by the end of the decade.”
Because hybrid models haven’t been specified and production is a few years off, Ford spokesman Said Deep said Tuesday, it’s too early to say how Claycomo or any other production plant might be affected. But Deep said Ford was “on plan to bring a new rear-wheel-drive hybrid system to market” that “will deliver the capability truck and SUV customers demand while providing greater fuel economy.”
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To improve fuel economy, the F-150 already has been substantially lightened through the use of aluminum in place of steel throughout the truck’s body. Fields also allowed that, with gasoline prices near record lows, it might not seem like the time to emphasize hybrids.
“But part of our job … is to think of what the world is going to look like five, 10 and even 15 years from now,” he told National Public Radio.
Fields also said Ford, besides investing $4.5 billion in electric vehicle development in the next five years, was thinking of itself “as a mobility company. … How do we provide mobility maybe beyond our traditional definition?”
And that wider view, he said, led Ford to consider ways to offer ride-booking services. It has been working on an Uber-style app, and next year on its Dearborn, Mich., campus it will test a fleet of Transit vans that Ford employees will be able to order for a ride to 129 locations.
The wider view also will include self-driving vehicles, Yahoo reported, citing anonymous sources. The companies declined to comment on the report, but such a partnership would allow each to use its strengths. Google has done extensive research, prototyping and test driving in the technology, and partnering with Ford would let it sidestep the costs of starting up a large manufacturing operation.
Such vehicles could usher in other forms of ride booking because riders could in effect hail a cab without the cabdriver.