Pickups are the normally preferred vehicle for ranchers, farmers and construction workers, but Ford thinks its F-150 fits a new role: luxury car.
Fittingly, the automaker chose the Back Bay of ritzy Newport Beach on Tuesday to unveil the “Limited” version of the F-150 truck. It goes on sale as a 2016 model with a price expected north of $60,000, likely to be the highest on the gasoline-powered, half-ton truck market.
While Ford already sells some models at expensive trim levels, this new version will be the top dog, surpassing the Lariat and Platinum editions. To make sure passengers know they are riding in a status symbol, the Limited will have with a laser-engraved vehicle identification number plate on the center console lid.
To make the truck stand out on the road, it’s equipped with 22-inch polished aluminum wheels, raised Limited lettering on the hood, a unique grille and a satin-finished chrome badge on the tailgate.
Inside, the interior is lined with a higher-grade leather than what’s offered in other Ford vehicles and is accented with fiddleback eucalyptus wood trim. The seats have a massaging function.
“This is a mine-is-bigger-than-yours pecking order,” said Jack Nerad, an analyst at auto information company Kelley Blue Book.
Buyers of such vehicles “often don’t have a ranch or a farm or need to haul anything in,” Nerad said. “It is just the picture they want to present of themselves.”
That’s why Ford rivals Ram and Chevrolet also are offering high-end trucks. Chrysler plans to offer a 1500 Laramie Limited Crew Cab Ram truck for the 2016 model year starting a $54,180. General Motors’ 2015 GMC Sierra 1500 Crew Cab has a similar price. But the Ford offering looks to set the upper limit, at least for now, Nerad said.
The Ford also comes with some fancy technology tricks.
It has an optional trailer backup assist that allows customers to steer a trailer almost robotically by turning a dashboard knob left or right to indicate direction. The truck controls its steering and limits vehicle speed.
The standard technology package includes adaptive cruise control with forward collision alert, a lane-keeping assist system, a 360-degree camera system and a partial self-parking system.
It is powered by Ford’s 3.5-liter, turbocharged “Ecoboost” V6.
Ford sells more than 700,000 F-150s annually. It has been the nation’s best-selling vehicle for 33 consecutive years.
The automaker figures maybe 4% to 5% of its truck sales next year will be the Limited edition, said Eric Peterson, the F-150’s marketing manager.
Potential customers are people looking for something like a Mercedes-Benz S-Class but are wed to trucks; maybe they have a boat to tow, or want to transport a few bales of hay occasionally. Peterson doesn’t expect owners to be using the Limited as a workhorse.
But based on sales of the upscale King Ranch and Platinum F-150 versions, he said the automaker is convinced there’s a profitable business in “bringing in a high-end truck above those models. I am not so sure we have seen the high end yet.”