LINKEDINCOMMENTMORE

Mike Sena thought something was odd when his magnetized GPS wouldn’t stick to the bed of a new work truck he was driving in November 2011.

Earlier that year, Ford Motor Co. had delivered two early prototypes of what would become the 2015 aluminum-body F-150 to Sena and other workers at mining company Barrick Gold USA. There was nothing outwardly that looked any different than a regular model-year 2011 F-150: The bed and tailgate were made of aluminum, but they were stamped to look like that of the 2011 truck. And everything but the bed and tailgate were pretty much the standard pickup available in any showroom.

Only when Sena’s survey team drove it 90 miles from town to an isolated mining site in the Nevada desert did he become a little suspicious that something was different. “The GPS wouldn’t stick to the side,” Sena said. “But we didn’t put a whole lot of effort into trying to figure it out.”

Sena’s team at Barrick was among the first to test an F-150 with an aluminum body, nearly three years before the redesigned pickup was unveiled at the 2014 North American International Auto Show. And now, Barrick is the first company to place a fleet order — 35 SuperCab 4x4 models with 3.5-liter V6 and 5.0-liter V8 engines — for the new truck.

“This is terrific proof that even our toughest, most demanding customers recognize the benefits of high-strength, military-grade, aluminum alloy to help them get the job done,” Fritz Ahadi, Ford commercial and government fleet sales general manager, said in a statement.

Ford also gave prototype trucks to an energy company in North Carolina and a construction company in Pennsylvania.

“Ford told us to treat it like any of our other trucks, maybe a little worse,” Sena said. “They told us to put it to work.”

That work included driving it over potholes, up steep hills and across other rough desert terrain.

It hauled everything from compressors and hitches to drill bits and wooden stakes.

In total, Barrick put more than 100,000 miles on one truck, and about 83,000 on the other.

“They were probably one of the most abusive,” said Ford engineer Denis Kansier.

“This was the first time in my engineering career I’ve seen how rough a truck is used.”

Sena said his team typically uses larger SuperDuty trucks, but was impressed with the F-150.

“It was everybody’s favorite truck,” he said. “It was a lot easier to manage in tight spaces, and the commute was a lot smoother on the roads.”

So far, the launch of Ford’s new truck is going well. Ford recently added a third shift to its Dearborn Truck Plant to make the pickups, and CEO Mark Fields said January sales results for F-Series trucks could be the best since 2004. Results will be released this week.

Barrick’s initial order is for 35 trucks, but the company plans to order hundreds more in the future.

“I think it’s a good thing,” Sena said. “I’ve worked now going on 15 years and Fords have been the standard. They’ve come a long way from where they used to be as far as amenities and performance.”

mmartinez@detroitnews.com

(313) 222-2401

Twitter.com/MikeMartinez_DN

LINKEDINCOMMENTMORE
Read or Share this story: http://www.detroitnews.com/story/business/autos/ford/2015/02/02/first-fleet-order-placed/22723427/