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11 Mar 12 Company aims at lucrative luxury segment


Detroit— Ford Motor Co. unveiled its most luxurious pickup Friday in a dirt-covered arena constructed inside Ford Field that will play host tonight to the Professional Bull Riders “Last Cowboy Standing” competition.

Four 2013 F-Series Super Duty Platinum models rolled into the arena while country music blasted and cowboys prepared a brief exhibition of bull riding. One of the trucks towed a livestock trailer loaded with bulls.

“This is one of Ford’s most important vehicles,” Ken Czubay, vice president of Ford truck sales and marketing, announced after stepping on stage in blue jeans, black shirt and cowboy boots.

Ford, which has been the title sponsor of the PBR tour for 10 years and claims to be the builder of America’s most popular work trucks, is building on the success of its Platinum F-150 series by adding F-250-, F-350 and F-450 versions to the line. The move expands Ford’s reach into the luxury truck segment, a lucrative market that can boost profit margins on the company’s already most profitable vehicle.

The 2013 F-Series Super Duty features a chrome-detailed exterior and seats upholstered in high quality leather as soft and supple as a glove. The 8-inch dash-mounted, voice-controlled, touch-screen system — SYNC with MyFord Touch for coordinated operation of cellphones, music, navigation and interior environmental control — is so sensitive it can be run by occupants wearing work gloves. The audio and environmental control buttons also are oversize for gloves.

“We’re meeting customer demand for an even more luxurious pickup truck than they can buy today,” said Ford spokesman Mike Levine.

The automaker hasn’t revealed a price, but Levine said it will cost more than the current top-of-the-line model — a diesel-only F-450 King Ranch at $68,000.

The new truck comes with optional 6.7-liter diesel or a 6.2-liter V-8 gasoline engine. It has temperature-controlled seating, a heated leather-wrapped steering wheel and a satin chrome and mesh grille. Ford first released a Platinum truck model in 2009 with its F-150 light-duty series.

The market for luxury trucks has not yet been exhausted, said Aaron Bragman, a senior analyst at IHS Automotive.

“Nobody really knows where the upper end is for luxury pickup trucks,” Bragman said. “People will spend astonishing amounts for completely lavishly outfitted trucks.”

“It’s the ultimate status symbol” even though gas prices are on the rise, Bragman said. “The idea is, if you can buy the car, you can afford the gas.”

Double-digit profit margins on pickups make the segment especially inviting to automakers in the U.S., where there is a market for larger vehicles.

Ford’s new F-Series will compete with General Motors Co.’s Sierra Denali and the Ram Laramie Longhorn model from Chrysler Group LLC.

The profit margins on trucks are much healthier than on compact cars or sedans.

“It doesn’t really cost (an automaker) more to change the content of their trucks, but they can charge much more,” Bragman said.

Jim Hayworth, CEO of the Professional Bull Riders tour, said research shows about half of the crowd that turns out for his events in 30 U.S. cities owns and drives Ford trucks. He owns a 2011 F-350, and was checking out the new luxury Platinum models.

“It’s not my dad’s pickup truck, that’s for sure,” Hayworth said.

“A lot of people use these in their daily lives. There are a lot of long stretches of road out there between jobs. Might as well be comfortable.”

dguthrie@detnews.com

(313) 222-2548

Article source: http://www.detroitnews.com/article/20120310/AUTO0102/203100340/Ford-hopes-strike-gold-big-Platinum-trucks

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