The seats will debut in the 2015 F-150, which arrives at dealers late this year. (Ford)
Ford Motor Co.ís new F-150 pickup sheds 700 pounds from its body and chassis, but to get there, the Dearborn automaker needed help from about a dozen hefty men.
In an effort to improve the durability of its leather-wrapped truck seats, Ford hired a firm to enlist the help of men of a certain size: at least 265 pounds. Dressed in dirty jeans, their mission was to climb into the driverís seat, get down and climb up again, at least 10,000 times per truck.
The result of that punishment-testing is a pair of front seats made of higher-strength steel and tougher leather that weigh a combined 30 pounds less than the current seats, but withstand consistent beating from the beefiest and grimiest truck drivers.
ďEven though our seats met our internal standards, we were getting a few customers, especially with our leather seats, where the leather was cracking and not living up to expectations,Ē said Tim Dunn, Fordís North American seat complete engineer manager, in an interview. Ford eventually found a contributing factor in addition to weight: dirt. Most seat durability testing is done by robot, but engineers were wary of how dirt could mess with robots and never tried the combination.
Enter the seat testers. Wearing stiff new jeans, they worked as many as 10 hours daily, for about a week, in scorching heat last summer in Taylor. Oh, yeah: The participants had to wear the same jeans throughout the process to emulate long-term wear and tear. That got to be both sticky and uncomfortable as the combination of dirt ó a standardized test material known as Arizona dust, which was patted onto truck seats every 500 sits ó and sweat began to cake on the denimís bottoms and inseams.
The seats will debut in the 2015 F-150, which arrives at dealers late this year.
Though it wasnít known exactly how much the seat testers were paid, it apparently wasnít enough: The firm had to increase the pay rate to avoid losing participants and having to start over, Dunn said.
ďA couple of them said it just wasnít worth it for what they were getting paid, making $60 to $70 a day,Ē he said.