The 2015-model pickup truck from Ford has been dubbed “the aluminum F-150” by auto writers for its extensive use of the lightweight metal, and is likely to help America’s best-selling single vehicle stay that way.

Unveiled earlier this week at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit, the new truck is said to weigh about 700 pounds less than the current full-size model.

Most body and bed panels are aluminum, and parts of the main frame are lightweight high-strength steel.

“The F-150 utilizes new materials that improve durability and capability, save weight and improve gas mileage,” said Raj Nair, group vice president for global development, at the unveiling. “The rock-solid frame and body are what set the truck apart.”

Aluminum is a new material for American pickups, so extra care was needed in development of the latest F-150, executives said.

Helping was experience that Ford engineers got while assisting in the design of aluminum panels for Jaguar and Range Rover bodies about a decade ago when Ford owned those European brands.

Lighter weight requires less power, so the ’15 F-150 will get two new engines: a standard 3.5-liter V-6, 0.2 liter smaller than now, and a 2.7-liter turbo V-6, which will carry the EcoBoost name, like other Ford turbocharged gasoline engines.

The current 3.5-liter EcoBoost V-6 and 5-liter non-turbo V-8 will continue, but the 6.2-liter V-8 will be dropped, except perhaps for special models.  

Aluminum is more expensive than steel, but pricing was not among information about the ’15 F-150 revealed by Ford executives at the Detroit show. Execs did say that pricing will remain competitive, while pointing out features. Among them:

  • Deeper drop to front-doors’ window sills and mirrors mounted further forward, for better sideways visibility.
  • Cameras to the sides and rear for 360-degree monitoring of traffic.
  • Trailer monitor to alert the driver of a burned-out bulb and other faults.
  • Power tailgate lock that can be remotely released.
  • 120-volt electrical outlets are upped to 400 watts from 125.

The current F-150, last updated for 2011, remains the sales leader in spite of redesigned General Motors full-size pickups introduced for the 2014 model year.

Observers say generous pricing discounts have kept Ford on top of the sales hill with while GM tries to stay closer to list prices with its Chevy Silverado and GMC Sierra.