Why the Super Duty is Ford’s Biggest Gamble, and Possible Win in 20 Years

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Have you ever stopped to think about what goes into launching a new vehicle? The planning, the engineering, the investment, and of course, the testing. Years of research, thousands of man hours and possibly billions of dollars in funding are a gamble that could pay off big, or not pay off at all.

Truth be told, I haven’t always covered the automotive industry for a living, but I’ve been an enthusiast my entire life, and one of the things that shocked me the most when I broke into automotive journalism, was the mind-boggling challenges that manufacturers have to go through to bring a vehicle to market. That market being you and only you.

Take Ford’s brand-spanking new Super Duty for example. Approximately 43 out of 100 customers with heavy duty truck needs choose Ford’s Super Duty over any other make or model, so when the blue oval decided to build a brand new model from scratch for the first time in 20 years, even the highest ranking executives at Dearborn wanted to be involved at every step of the process. In their heads, there were only two outcomes to their gamble; continue growing Super Duty’s customer loyalty, or throw decades of it in the trash and hand sales over to their competitors. No pressure, right?


On an interview with Business Insider, Ford CFO Bob Shanks said,  “Super Duty is a very, very important product. It’s high volume. It’s very high margin. It’s a big changeover because we have not had a complete redesign of this product for 19 or 20 years. It’s going into a big plant. It’s aluminum. It’s a new frame. It’s powertrain upgrades. It’s new features. It’s new technologies.”

That’s a lot of “news.” Funny enough, Ford was quick to point out that the acceptance of an even more aluminum-centric Super Duty was much higher by Super Duty customers than it was by F-150 customers. Ford attributes this to the fact that heavy duty customers have been dealing with aluminum in the trailer, construction and farming community for decades, compared to the more-mainstream F-150 clientele. So in their eyes, aluminum was an easy win this time around, and Ford executives liked the sound of that from the word, go.


“It’s a big deal,” Brian Rathsburg, Ford’s marketing manager for the Super Duty. “The truck is our halo vehicle in terms of capability. We’re absolutely operating from a position of strength, but with that comes a burden of responsibility to continue to be the leader.”

Speaking of leadership, Craig Schmatz is the Super Duty’s chief engineer, and this truck has been his baby for over half a decade. If the Super Duty turns out to be as successful as Ford predicts, it will also be the crowning achievement of his nearly 30 year career with Ford.

The year 2017 is right around the corner and soon enough we will find out if  Ford’s biggest gamble will remain leader in the segment and devour market share. I’d like so say it will, but the truth is that it’s still too early to tell.

It all comes down to you.

Chime in with your thoughts on the forum. >>

Photos via: [Ford]

Jerry Perez is a regular contributor to Ford Truck Enthusiasts, Corvette Forum, and 6SpeedOnline, among other auto sites.

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