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Ford F-Series Pickups Are Nearly Everywhere

October 1, 1988

DETROIT (AP) _ Ford F-series trucks are everywhere on America’s roads.

They take Johnny to school and take dad to his landscape business. They haul garbage to the dump and tow horse trailers to weekend horse shows. They are workhorses that America has come to love.

For 11 years, the F-series trucks have been the best-selling trucks in the United States. They have outsold any car nameplate for the last six years and the trucks’ popularity is expected to continue into 1989, with few major changes planned for the new model year beginning in early October.

The test truck, a two-wheel-drive 1988 F-150 styleside pickup, seemed to need few changes. It was sturdy and spacious. The interior was neat in appearance, with needle gauges that were easy to read and a large center armrest that folded down. There was room to store some items behind the bench seat, and the seat folded forward for easier access back there.

Like all trucks, the F-150 offered a high perch to view traffic, and visibility was good in all directions. The truck was relatively easy to handle, even park, as long as the driver kept in mind the 98.3-inch truckbed in back.

There was little body sway around corners, thanks in part to the handling package option that included front and rear stabilizer bars. However, the ride could be a bit bouncy on rough terrain and in some road conditions. Seat belts were needed to keep everyone in place on the seat at those times. In addition, the bench seat did not offer the adjustability and comfort of many car seats.

The engine, a 5.8-liter, electronic fuel-injected V-8 teamed with automatic transmission, was powerful and performed rather smoothly. But it really sipped the fuel, making me glad to have the optional second fuel tank that could be tapped with a flip of a switch on the dashboard. The government mileage rating for the truck was a mere 12 miles per gallon in the city, 14 mpg on the highway.

Brakes performed well, with anti-lock brakes in the rear. The truckbed was easy to climb into and out of, especially because of the optional step-up bumper in back. The tailgate folded down with ease, though it was a bit heavy.

That’s not likely to bother the typical F-series buyer, however. Ford said 95 percent are men, with median age of about 45.

Eighty percent are married, and 40 percent have some college education. Median annual income is $39,000, and 27 percent have white-collar jobs, the automaker said.

Buyers use the trucks for both personal and business use, with Ford truck manager Beryl Stajich saying the ″biggest single use is back and forth to work.″

In fact, trucks overall have become so much a part of American life that industry statistics show that while only one truck was sold for every 10 cars in 1966, today one truck is sold for every two cars.

F-series competitors include the Chevrolet C-K pickups and the Dodge full- size pickup trucks. Two-wheel-drive versions of all those models, with at least 116-inch wheelbase, have starting prices ranging from $7,700 to $9,600. But prices can get up over $11,000 with additions for towing, handling and comfort features.

In style and function, the Ford, Chevy and Dodge trucks all seem pretty similar. Another similarity is the fact that all truck buyers - no matter what model they get - rank durability as a prime concern, auto analysts say.

Consumer Reports said Ford two-wheel-drive V-8 pickups for the 1981-83 model years ranked average in owners reporting troubles. For the 1984-86 model years, the ranking fell to ″worse than average,″ but the current F-series trucks were redesigned for 1987, and there was no Consumer Reports ranking for the later models.

Ford offers a wide selection of powertrains and body styles to fit buyers’ needs. Towing capacities range from 2,100 pounds to 12,500 pounds, for example.

Ford has a large number of repeat buyers, Stajich said. A 1987 study showed 47 percent of buyers had been previous Ford owners, compared with 36 percent for Chevy, he said.

That loyalty, plus the fact that trucks traditionally are kept longer than cars are (13 years before scrappage vs. 10 years for cars), and a growing U.S. truck market help account for the volumes of Ford trucks on America’s roads.

The trend is likely to continue, considering that by mid-year the F-series continued to hold down the top-selling spot in the industry, with sales of more than 312,800. The Chevy C-K trucks were second, followed by the Chevrolet Corsica-Beretta cars.

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EDITOR’S NOTE - Ann Job, former executive business editor of The Detroit News, writes biweekly automobile reviews for The Associated Press. She has covered the automobile industry for six years.

End Adv Weekend Editions Oct. 1-2

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