Like everyone realizes, the American pickup has in many cases been transformed into a statement on personal mobility more than a working vehicle. We’ve all seen folks idling in traffic, sitting tall in their full-size truck with some kind of designer or signature decor and interior package. Sometimes, you wonder whether the auto industry’s vision of what a truck is supposed to be, and do, has gotten lost as pickups have become high-profile transportation for suburbanites. Every so often, we’re reminded that at least in some cases, auto executives and designers still understand that a pickup remains a crucial part of a working person’s toolkit. We had a conversation last week with Travis Calhoun, a Ford Motor Company senior product planner helping to launch the 14th-generation F-series trucks, a process that’s underway right now. And the Ford people made it clear that if you buy a 2021 F-150, you’ll soon learn that it’s chockablock with innovations that won’t just help you strut and profile, but will also make you more productive at your favorite job site.
Travis said that during focus groups that were part of the planning process for the new F-series, Ford learned to its surprise that up to 20 percent of current truck owners were routinely carrying portable generators in their pickup cargo beds. That led to the advance you see in the accompanying photo. It’s called Pro Power Onboard, it’s available on the new trucks as an option, and it essentially turns the F-series into a mobile generating station that can produce power for a full range of uses at any job site. Ford calls this exportable power, which means that the new truck can be left idling and generate 2.0-kilowatt electrical output with gasoline power, or up to 7.2 kilowatts for F-series rigs optioned with the 3.5-liter PowerBoost hybrid powertrain. As Travis put it, a 22-gallon tank will allow an F-150 to potentially produce enough electricity to power a full worksite for 24 hours. The system combines in-cab electrical outlets with up to four bed-located 120-volt, 20-amp outlets, plus a 240-volt, 30-amp outlet on the 7.2-kilowatt version. All the new F-series trucks will have SYNC 4 connectivity standard, with over-the-air upgrades and voice recognition, which will allow buyers to turn on the truck’s exterior lights for site illumination using the FordPass app on their smartphones. Depending on how the truck is optioned, labor-savers can also include an optional Interior Work Surface in the cab, clamp pockets for securing projects to the tailgate without damaging it, and Max Recline Seats on premium models that fold flat to nearly 180 degrees, allowing owners to take a break and grab some z’s. This F-series can be made as much of a tool as anything with a Milwaukee, DeWalt or Kobalt label. Individuality and personalization are still important, mind you: Among other things, the 2012 F-series offers buyers their choice of 11 different grille options across the lineup.