By Kap Maceda Aguila
FORD PHILIPPINES AVP for Communications Edward Joseph “EJ” Francisco recalls to “Velocity” how the brand’s full-size pickup F-150 had passed a “test of temperature 22 years ago” when it was first made available here. Surely, it sated the market need for a hefty and powerful people/cargo mover. Just as there was a healthy following for its equally large sibling in the Expedition, the F-150 resonated in car buyers who wanted a burly, capable (and well-appointed) hauler. It was in many ways a statement vehicle.
But the love story eventually soured with rising gas prices, as the F-150 also proved to be a gas guzzler which easily burned through the good stuff, particularly when mired in gridlock.
So, we shouldn’t blame people who now wonder about the model’s reappearance (in a time of crisis no less) and given its rather checkered history. But that kind of thinking is not lost on Ford Philippines Managing Director PK Umashankar as well, who deserves credit for not dodging the obvious question. In an exclusive interview, the executive admits, “We were careful because we understood that feedback, and we wanted to make sure we got a more fuel-efficient F-150 engine.”
Of course, the F-150 then is not the F-150 that now returns. A lot more is figuratively and literally riding on today’s 13th-generation pickup. The F-Series has been America’s best-selling truck for 43 straight years, and its top-selling vehicle for 38 consecutive years.
Two variants of the Dearborn, Michigan-sourced nameplate are now here: the F-150 4×4 Platinum SuperCrew AT and F-150 4×2 Lariat SuperCrew AT. Both are powered by a 3.5-liter V6 EcoBoost engine with auto start-stop technology, mated to a 10-speed automatic transmission with SelectShift that promises, according to Ford, “unmatched power, fuel efficiency, and refinement.”
Engine choices for the F-150 nameplate include a 2.7-liter V6 turbo (325hp), a 3.0-liter V6 turbodiesel (250hp), a 3.3-liter V6 (290hp), and a 5.0-liter V8 (395hp). Ford Philippines eventually decided on the 3.5-liter (375hp, 637Nm) power plant largely for its proven relative fuel economy.
“What we wanted here is a right engine that delivers power performance, frugality and fuel economy — (while being) responsible environmentally,” says Mr. Umashankar, who further admits that it was a tough task to choose the variants to bring in. Eventually, they decided on the top variants. “That’s what the consumers in the Philippines would want,” he quips.
Far from being merely a utilitarian vehicle, the F-150 is equipped with “luxurious leather interior with 10-way adjustable driver and front passenger seats plus Active Motion massage available for the Platinum 4×4 variant.” Its array of features includes a Bang & Olufsen 10-speaker sound system, 20-inch alloy wheels, 360-degree camera with split view display, and others.
The original schedule for the local launch was March, until the pandemic scuttled plans. But the underlying confidence for the market’s readiness is undeniable. “Over the last three years, we’ve been observing the Philippine market. There are two changes we’ve observed,” says the executive. “One is the pickup industry is growing… Second, uniquely for us, in 2018 we introduced Raptor in the Ranger series, and we found overwhelming success after introduction.” For his part, Mr. Francisco reveals that from nine percent in 2017, the pickup share in total local market sales has steadily risen to 14% in 2018, then 17% in 2019.
The unmitigated success of the Ranger Raptor was a particular eye-opener for Ford Philippines — practically confirming the market readiness for a bigger, performance-oriented pickup. “In 2019, the mix of Raptors in the Philippines among the Ranger was the highest worldwide. No one sold as many Raptors to Rangers like we did in the Philippines. This goes on to prove that the customers here are driven by the emotional derivative that the Raptor is. The emotional connect that the Raptor exterior brings to the customer is so powerful that we were able to be so successful. In fact, some months, every second Ranger we sold in the Philippines was a Raptor,” shares Mr. Umashankar. “This gave us the confidence that this is the right time… to bring in another strong emotional derivative at the same time.”
Joins Mr. Francisco, “More customers are realizing the benefits of owning a pickup, so we’re very confident about the clamor and demand, especially since our range caters to different price points and needs.”
With the addition of the two F-150s, Ford Philippines further cements its position as having the widest pickup lineup in the country (a total of 15 now), and makes the company ideally poised to take advantage of the growing appetite for this segment. Since the unveiling was supposed to happen last March, Ford had already shipped F-150 units here, which means they’ve had a head start on stocking up with supplies.
The F-150 is now available in Ford dealerships nationwide, with a starting retail price of P2.698 million for the F-150 4×2 Lariat SuperCrew AT and P2.998 million for the F-150 4×4 Platinum SuperCrew AT. The F-150 4×4 Platinum comes in four colors: Blue Jeans, Star White, Iconic Silver and Agate Black. The Star White color variant, which is a special color for the F-150 4×4 Platinum, is available for an additional P15,000. The 4×2 Lariat variant also comes in four colors including Rapid Red, Oxford White, Iconic Silver and Agate Black.
“We’re confident that the timing is right,” underscores Mr. Umashankar. “COVID-19 put the system in flux, but we still believe it’s the right time to bring the F-150 in.”
You could say that Ford Philippines is banking that the segment will continue to, well, pick up.