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45 Years At The Top: How Does Ford Continue To Dominate America’s Pickup Market?

With 40 million trucks produced since 1947, 45 consecutive years as America’s best-selling pickup and 40 years running as the country’s best-selling single vehicle, Ford’s F-series sits atop the most competitive car market in the world. But how did Ford get to the summit? And perhaps more importantly, how has it managed to stay there for more than four decades? The answer is multifaceted. Over the years, Ford has capitalized on its ability to offer more options than the competition, embraced and utilized cutting-edge technology before others, gone to great lengths to develop durable powertrains and striven for best-in-class status in virtually every truck category.

2022 Ford F-150 Tremor 40 Million

Rather than run you through the complete history of the F-series line, which is unique in its own right and worth learning, we’re starting with the trucks that began FoMoCo’s 45-year reign and moving forward. From dent sides to the debut of fuel injection, special trim packages to bold redesigns, and forced induction gas engines to turbo diesels to the all-electric Lightning, Ford often sets the tone for the entire truck market. And that’s exactly how you dominate the field.

When The 45-Year Reign Began

1973 Ford F250 High Boy Diesel

Sixth generation F-series trucks that looked similar to this one kick-started the 45-year reign at the top Ford currently enjoys. Back then, and ironically enough, the F-150 had just been introduced (in 1975), the squared off headlights debuted in ’78 and the F-100 was still alive (although only for another six years). Neat Tidbit #1: at the time (1977/1978) you could also still get a 460 ci big-block V-8 in a half-ton. Neat Tidbit #2: the iconic F-250 High-Boy, appropriately shown here in dent side form, was nearing the end of its ’73-’79 production run.

Embracing Technology

1986 Ford F-150 EFI

With electronic fuel injection set to take over the automotive market, Ford jumped in headfirst in 1986. That model year, the 5.0L V-8 option for the F-150 came standard with multi-port, electronic fuel injection—the first such engine in an American pickup truck. By 1988, Ford scrapped carbureted engines altogether and the F-series became the first American pickup truck to feature an all-fuel injected lineup. Two decades later, Ford embraced gasoline direct injection with its EcoBoost line of engines. Most recently, Ford brought the future of automobiles, battery electric technology, to the F-150 with the all-electric Lightning.

How Ford Continues To Sell So Many Trucks

Ford Super Duty Lineup 2022

Design, styling, performance and reliability played a role in Ford’s F-series rise to the top, but its wide array of trim packages has long-given consumers the ability to pick and choose exactly what they want on and in their trucks. Think Eddie Bauer edition, Limited, King Ranch and Platinum trims for modern times, but don’t forget about all the “Special” option packages that were available for F-series trucks in the 1960s and 1970s. Today, there are eight different trim packages available for the F-150 alone.

Powerful, Durable Powertrains

F-150 3.5L EcoBoost Burnout

Similar to what it had done with the turbo 2.3L in the 1980s, Ford married forced induction with small displacement once again on the EcoBoost platform. Despite their lack of cubic inches as compared to the thumping V-8 gassers of the truck segment, EcoBoost power plants (especially the twin-turbo 3.5L V-6 version) not only keep pace with the competition, but in many cases outperform them. In the F-150, Ram 1500 and Chevrolet/GMC Silverado/Sierra 1500 segment, the 3.5L EcoBoost has been the unofficial standard engine since 2011. Its take-rate is extremely high and the latest version produces 400 hp and 500 lb-ft of torque in non-hybrid form.

Reinventing Itself When It Needs To

Power Stroke Diesel V8 Ford Super Duty

While simultaneously shaking up the gasoline side of things with the direct injected, twin-turbocharged 3.5L EcoBoost, Ford introduced the 6.7L Power Stroke for Super Duty’s in 2010 (for ’11 model year trucks). The new V-8 turbo diesel was designed, developed and produced 100-percent in-house, whereas the previous three generations were sourced from Navistar International. An immediate hit, the 6.7L Power Stroke has enjoyed the longest production run of any diesel to wear the Power Stroke nameplate and is still in production today. Its reputation for durability and power makes it the preferred engine option in the F-250, F-350 and F-450 segment. At the present time, the 6.7L Power Stroke produces a class-leading 475 hp and an immense 1,050 lb-ft of torque right off the assembly line.

Bold Moves & Big Redesigns

1997 Ford F-150 Extended Cab

Despite its sales domination of the truck market, Ford knows better than anyone when its platform has aged. But beyond that, the company isn’t afraid of revolutionizing the design of its trucks. Take the 1997 redesign of the F-150 for example. A long overdue makeover was needed for the F-series, which had remained virtually the same from 1980 to 1996. Overnight, the F-150 became a sleek, aerodynamic all-purpose vehicle that parted ways with the boxy body styles of the past. A year later, the new Super Duty line—which revolutionized the ¾-ton and larger segment—began production, marking the first time the F-series pickups would be produced on separate assembly lines. Of course, throughout the past 30 years, Ford has offered enthusiasts the SVT Lightning, the Raptor and most recently the Tremor options.

Comfortable, But Built To Work

F-350 Super Duty Power Stroke Towing

Within our limited circle of acquaintances that work or have worked for Ford Motor Company, we know that the auto maker takes its pickups very seriously. Specifically, its engineers take towing seriously. You’d be very hard-pressed to find a truck that pulls a trailer better than Ford’s F-150 or its Super Duty’s—and it’s also why, despite constant jockeying for position to be biggest and baddest in the land, Ford usually tops the charts in towing capacity. In the past, Ford has let it be known that more than 90-percent of its customers use their trucks to tow, which explains why the company works so hard to lead this all-important category.

Always In Style

Platinum Ford F-450 Power Stroke Diesel

What’s even better than beating the competition at their own game? Looking good while doing it! In addition to treating its dual rear wheel trucks to high-end trim packages, Ford’s F-450 has long been its means of dominating payload and tow ratings in the pickup truck segment. For 2022, a properly-equipped F-450 can tow an incredible 37,000 pounds by way of fifth-wheel or gooseneck hitch (regular cab 4x2). Maximum payload capacity checks in at a whopping 6,210 pounds.

Truck Number 40-Million

40 Million F-Series Ford Pickup Trucks

For the 40-millionth time, an F-series pickup rolled off Ford’s assembly line in late January. The truck, an Iconic Silver ’22 model F-150 Tremor, fittingly left the plant right away to be put to work somewhere down in Texas. Even amid component supply shortages that’ve resulted from the recent pandemic, Ford managed to produce 726,004 F-series trucks in 2021—off the pace of what will eventually be 1 million trucks per year. With the automaker recently having to stop taking orders for 2022 Super Duty's, current demand suggests that Ford will continue to dominate the pickup segment for years to come, and maybe even another 45 years.

  • Have you ever wondered why Ford’s EcoBoost engines are so popular? We spotlight all of the F-150-intended 3.5L and 2.7L power plants’ high-points right here.
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