DETROIT (TheStreet) -- Ford (F) on Monday unveiled major innovations in the truck that has been the best-selling U.S. vehicle for the past three decades, chopping 700 pounds from the F-150 pickup as it moves to an aluminum body.
The F-150 is a symbol of America, the best truck for the past 37 years and the best-selling vehicle for the past 32 years. In 2013, Ford sold 763,402 F-150s, with each sale accounting for an estimated $10,000 in profit.
The new model was introduced on the first day of the Detroit Auto Show. "The all-new F-150 redefines the future of trucks, and it is yet another example of our One Ford plan producing vehicles that serve customers with a commitment to the very best quality, fuel efficiency, safety, smart design and value," said Mark Fields, Ford'd chief operating officer, in a prepared statement.
High-strength aluminum alloys are used throughout the F-150 body for the first time, improving dent and ding resistance and also saving weight, Ford said.
The loss of 700 pounds of weight helps the vehicle tow more, haul more, accelerate quicker and stop shorter, Ford said, noting that the frame also uses steel that is "stronger than the steel found in some competitors' heavy-duty pickup truck frames."
In the first half hour of morning trading, Ford shares were up 43 cents to $16.50. "The changeover to the updated trucks in 2014, in our view, is the most important investment variable for Ford over the next 6-12 months," wrote Sterne Agee analyst Michael Ward in a report issued Monday morning. Ward has a buy rating and a $19 price target. He estimated 2014 earnings of $1.40 a share, down from $1.50 in 2013.
"In the near-term, we expect Ford's stock to remain range-bound pending the launch of the new trucks," Ward said. "Longer-term, an improved balance sheet, earnings acceleration in 2015, and yield support, along with the likelihood of more favorable capital allocation for shareholders over the next few years, supports our buy rating."
Besides the aluminum component, other features include 360-degree camera view, using exterior cameras to help the driver park and maneuver in tight spots; integrated loading ramps; LED headlamps and tail lamps to enhance nighttime visibility; and high-voltage 400-watt power outlets in the cab, allowing drivers to easily charge corded tools or mobile devices while driving.
A range of four engines, from a 2.7 liter EcoBoost engine with auto start-stop technology to a 5.0-liter V8 will be offered. Five primary trims will also be offered.
The F-150 will continue to be manufactured at Ford's Dearborn Truck Plant in Dearborn, Mich., and Kansas City Assembly Plant in Claycom, Mo. Ford will invest $1.8 billion to renovate the plants. It has said that 2014 net income will decline as it invests in the new truck and makes the transition to selling it.
Kelley Blue Book analyst Karl Brauer said the F-150 will be the principal vehicle at the 2014 Detroit Auto Show. "The F-150 is hugely important," Brauer said. "It will have so many upgrades as well as an aluminum structure, meaning a substantial drop in weight. Everything gets better when a vehicle gets lighter."
Edmunds.com analyst Jessica Caldwell said "there is already so much buzz around the F-150, a lot of questions about how the aluminum body will affect weight reduction, fuel economy and performance. I wonder if it will be something people embrace, or if people will think it strays too far from what a truck is. The traditional truck market is not used to radical change."