It was 100 years ago today, that Ford introduced its first purpose-built truck, the 1917 Ford Model TT, forever changing the auto industry by creating the pickup truck segment. Ford is one of the world's largest automotive manufacturers today and has a variety of vehicles in its portfolio.
In Europe and Asia, Ford is well-known for its hatchbacks, sedans, crossovers and even performance cars. However, in the company's home continent, Ford is known for performance cars like the Mustang and the GT, and also their ever expanding range of pickup trucks. In fact, Ford's sells pickups more than their other cars.
The Ford F-series has been America's best-selling vehicle for 35 years and best-selling pickup for 40 years straight. It is a stronger case in Canada, where the F-series has been the best-selling pickup for 51 years in a row, and now the best selling vehicle in the last seven years, the F-150 contributing the majority of these numbers.
Ford trucks can be described as iconic, as they revolutionised the way people worked. Even though they have in the past had a humble beginning, being developed to be used by farmers, they are seen today as lifestyle vehicles.
Birth Of The Ford Pickup Truck:
Less than a decade after the Model T was launched in 1908, Ford started receiving queries and feedback from customers, showing requirement for a vehicle which could haul heavier loads and provide greater utility.
This demand for a new kind of vehicle was out in the open, and by then a small industry had cropped up for meet the need. Customizers bought cars, stretched them, made the rear into flatbeds and sold them as trucks.
Henry Ford, the founder of the Ford motor company, saw thousands of Model Ts being converted by other companies and apparently said to himself, "This seems like something we should do in the factory," and that, is how the pickup truck was born.
On July 27, 1917, Ford launched with the Model TT at a price of $600 (Rs 1,800 in 1917). The pickup truck retained the cabin and engine from the Model T, but came with a toughened frame capable of carrying a payload of one tonne. 209 Model TTs were sold that year.
It featured a chassis that was designed to also accommodate beds made by third-party companies and other add-ons to deliver the increased functionality needed to get work done. The truck also had a robust build quality.
The rear suspension was much stiffer, and the rear axle too was beefed up.What made it more successful was that it was engineered to be a truck from the ground up unlike the modified cars other companies sold.
The Model TT was launched while World War I was underway, and this resulted in the inevitable. Many Model TTs were shipped to Europe where they served with the Red Cross as ambulances. This was when the truck's sales in Europe increased, quadrupling because of the TT's durability which was proven on the battlefield.
Ford sold 1.3 million Model TTs before replacing the truck with the more capable 1.5-ton chassis Model AA in 1928. There exists no exact record of how many TT and AA pickups Ford built, the last known figure is - 40 lakh trucks by 1941, which is when production of civilian vehicles was stopped for WWII. And that was the beginning of Ford's legendary pickup trucks.
Ford's Pickup Trucks:
The Change-over to war production after 1941 gave Ford experience in building heavy-duty military truck chassis and four-wheel-drive personnel carriers. When production resumed for consumers in 1947, Ford used that expertise in building their pickup trucks, and today's Ford four-wheel-drive tech used in Ford's pickups are a result of that.
Ford's pickups have over the last 100 years become part and parcel of daily life in America and Europe. Many were outfitted as mail and freight vehicles, ambulances and stake trucks. Roots of the Ford F-series trucks on sale today, can be traced back to the Ford F1 in 1948. Since then, the F-series family has only grown in numbers, and more than half a century later, Ford's pickup trucks still follow the F nomenclature.
Ford's pickup trucks have been used as freight vehicles, ambulances, fire trucks, police cars, etc. Over the years, their trucks have also become less utilitarian in design, and are now a lifestyle symbol. Ford's trucks today are safer, tougher, stronger and more powerful than ever.
Does India Have A Connection With Ford's Pickups?
No. Not yet at least. India, unfortunately has been one of the few markets that Ford has avoided bringing their pickup trucks into. To a certain extent, it did make sense, as the Indian market was not one in which pickup trucks flourished. The existing pickup trucks like the Mahindra Scorpio Getaway and Tata Xenon, did not sell very well, and Ford's pickup trucks are huge and thirsty, something that the Indian audience does not warm up to.
However, Ford can take this 100th year as an opportunity to launch one here. Going by the sales figures and the demand for the Isuzu D-Max V-Cross, it is clear that the Indian market is slowly beginning to appreciate the idea of a good pickup truck. Ford can leverage their existing platforms in the Indian market to build a pickup truck here, thereby sell it at a low price.
What platform is this? Well, the Ford Endeavour as we know it in India, is also available as a pickup truck in America. The Ford Ranger pickup truck is based on the same chassis as the Indian Ford Endeavour. It is not just the chassis, but it also has the same interior, same powertrain, and even the same exterior (obviously except for the rear end).
Ford makes some of the meanest, biggest and baddest pickup trucks out there, and it would be lovely to see them on sale in India. With the Endeavour's platform, Ford has a strength that it can leverage in the Indian market, and now definitely seems to be the time to launch one in India. While it would be great to see a Ford F-150 in an Indian dealership, the Ford ranger seems to be the more sensible choice.