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The 2015 Ford F150 Needs an 8-Speed Transmission to Keep Pace with Ram, GM

Even though half ton trucks are valued more for their capabilities than their fuel economy, the 2015 Ford F150 may be forced to adapt an 8-speed transmission to keep pace with the competition from both General Motors and the Chrysler Group’s Ram brand.

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When buying a half ton pickup truck like the 2015 Ford F150, the Chevy Silverado or the Ram 1500, fuel economy usually isn’t all that high on the customer’s priorities. After all, these vehicles are among the least efficient consumer models in the industry and for good reason, as they are the biggest and the most capable consumer models. However, with the competition heating up between the Silverado/Sierra, the Ram and the F150, every little feature could sway a buyer so in addition to making sure that their top selling pickups can do as much as possible, automakers are working hard to help these pickups offer the best fuel economy possible.

The Ford F150 spent quite a bit of time leading the half ton truck segment in MPGs with the incredibly capable 3.5L EcoBoost, but new competition from around Detroit have pushed the bestselling vehicle in America down the chart a bit. A big part of that advantage for the Ram 1500 is their 8-speed automatic transmission – a few that the Blue Oval crew may need to consider in order to keep pace with the Chrysler trucks.

The Age of the 8-Speed Auto
General Motors has announced that the Chevrolet and GMC half ton lineup will soon benefit from a new 8-speed automatic transmission, joining the Ram 1500 in offering these 8-speed gearboxes while the Ford F150 continues to stick by their familiar 6-speed unit. Ford offers some of the most efficient engines in the half ton truck segment with the help of EcoBoost technology, but due to the combination of similarly efficient engines and an 8-speed transmission, the Ram 1500 is the segment leader in fuel economy with each of the top two options. The Ram 1500 EcoDiesel is the most efficient half ton truck sold in America, followed by the Ram 1500 pickups powered by the Pentastar V6. With the introduction of the new GM 8-speed transmission in the 201 Silverado 1500 and Sierra 1500 fitted with the 6.2L V8, we can expect that the General will soon have some sort of MPG claim to fame – leaving Ford behind.

Even with the new 2.7L EcoBoost V6 and the lightweight new body, the 2015 Ford F150 may fall short of the cross town competitors with the 6-speed automatic transmission. By going to the 8-speed transmission, the Ram 1500 benefits from stronger low end acceleration with less work by the engine while the numerically higher gears allow the various engines to run at lower RPMs at highway speeds. Shy of cost, there is really no downside to these 8-speed transmissions so it is hard to imagine why Ford Motor Company wouldn’t roll out an 8-speed of their own for the popular F150.

Ford Will Do Something to Put the F150 On Top
The Ford F Series pickup is the bestselling vehicle in America and it has been for more than three decades. The F150 is the top model among the F Series so with the introduction of the 2015 Ford F150, the Motor Company is under a great deal of pressure to improve the bestselling vehicle in the market. The company has already announced that this will be the lightest F150 ever due to the integration of new aluminum body panels and the introduction of the new 2.7L EcoBoost V6 should bring all new levels of fuel economy to the half ton F Series lineup. These changes – plus the addition of an ultra lightweight fuel efficient (SFE) model – could help put the 2015 F150 atop the half ton truck fuel economy charts.

However, if the official fuel economy figures for the 2015 Ford F150 fall short of the Ram EcoDiesel – or only beat the EcoDiesel by a small margin with the 6-speed transmission, Ford will most certainly have something in the works to push the F150 back to the head of the class. Keep in mind, Ford has worked in designing 9 and 10 speed automatic transmissions with General Motors…and either of those in an F150 would almost certainly give it the best fuel economy in the segment.

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Matthew (not verified)    July 28, 2014 - 1:27AM

to add to your article... Ram has spent the capital on R&D for the drivetrains, where as Ford as spent on weigh savings and structure. the most expensive for R&D is spent on drivetrains, in fact some research suggests 2 to 3 times as much. Based on this information, one could conclude Fords strategy is misguided, and may not see the financial benefits of their moves for 2-3 years, market leader or not. Remember Ram has passed GM truck sales for the last two years and the gap is exponentially widening. So studying Ram's strategy you can see that they are and will be benefiting by fiscal profit and increased market share for sometime. It will cost less money and time for Ram to retool their factories to implement Fords weight saving strategy and heavy use of aluminum. what Ford has been successful at is marketing the 2015 F150 and this may offset the current market share loss. It is not worthy to point out that when they say "we are shaving off up to 700 lbs off the current model" they didn't mention that its only an average of about 270lbs lighter then the crosstown competition (depending on configuration). So if you take into account that 270lbs it wont take Ram any effort to shave that off just to keep with Ford. As for Toyota and Nissan trucks, well they need a miracle!

Dan (not verified)    July 30, 2014 - 8:16PM

Diesel fuel costs more than gas so if Ford can get the 2.7 within a couple of MPG of the Ram, that's an economy win. The lower sticker price is the cherry on top.

Ford is going to have a 10 speed automatic in a year or two; designed in a joint venture with GM. That's going to put Fiat behind the 8 ball to develop a new transmission and lighten their truck.

Right now Ford is the only manufacturer that can risk an aluminum truck because they have the cash and the sales volume to ensure it is a success. GM and Fiat are just hoping they don't get totally crushed.

Finally, the start/stop feature of the 2.7 might be better for economy than an extra two gears in the transmission. GM and Fiat might have to design new engines to match that.

The GM 5.3 liter V8 is nice and it has cylinder deactivation for economy but that just turns it in to a not terribly efficient 2.65 liter V4. The Ford 2.7 just has to turn down the boost to zero and it will match the cruising economy.

Ford knows what they are doing and is investing wisely. Pretty soon it's going to be like an Intel-AMD situation where Ford prices their products just low enough to make GM and Fiat barely get by while Ford is raking in the dough.

Ryan (not verified)    March 29, 2015 - 6:54PM

You can't compare the dodge v6 to the ecoboost since it can't haul like haft the wight of the ecoboost. Also the dodge diesel haft ton might be better on fuel but last time I checked diesel costs more per litre and is more to servie and fix. Also the diesel is expensive and can't even out tow the 2.7 ecoboost. Guess this person isn't a driver who did this article and probably has never even drove a truck do your home work before you bash the only car company that didn't need are tax money