Q&A: F-150 Chief Program Engineer Jerry Farrell Discusses New Diesel Powertrain

Jerry Farrell, chief program engineer for the Ford F-150, has overseen dramatic changes with America’s best-selling vehicle in the last several years. He recently spoke with @FordOnline to discuss the evolution of F-150 and the addition of a diesel engine to the truck’s lineup.

What was your role with the 2018 F-150?

“I’m the one who keeps the program on track and on time, meeting all targets and deliverables. It goes back to defining the program and what we’re trying to do. It’s developing a program and delivering it when we get to launch based on the original vision we planned for in the beginning.”

What’s your proudest moment in your 19 years with the company?

“Delivering the all-new 2015 F-150 as program manager. That was an incredible, massive program with the all-new aluminum body taking 700 pounds out and really giving it back to the customer with better attributes for all-around fantastic results. It was a very, very difficult program because of the size and the process. Moving to aluminum from steel for the entire body was an incredible effort to pull off and it went flawlessly.

“People thought we were taking risks and chances, but we knew what we were doing and we just delivered. The 3.0-liter Power Stroke diesel F-150 is really the last piece of that original vision. And I managed to stay involved with it from beginning to end. That’s personally very satisfying.” 

Is a diesel powertrain the next step in the evolution of F-150?

“When we were planning the 2015 model with the all-aluminum cab, part of the strategy was to progress to building on that foundation with powertrain technology. We saw that first with the 2018 model year base program where we brought out the more efficient, redesigned 3.3-liter, 2.7-liter and 5.0-liter engines. The diesel is now the final cog in a whole plan that was envisioned eight years ago.”

Why is now the right time to include this option?

“Customers have been asking for the diesel for a number of years, and now we have the foundation set with the aluminum cab and we can really deliver a diesel that not only hauls and tows a significant amount, it also returns fantastic fuel economy.”

How important to the F-150 lineup is the diesel option?

“It’s key, really, as F-150 is all about work. That’s what the Power Stroke does. The diesel gives you the low-end torque, and that’s what you’re looking for when you’re towing and hauling. It’s a very, very important step for F-150.”

Is there an added benefit of being able to include the diesel option for the 2018 model year?

“From a competitive assessment, it is important that we maintain our position as America’s truck leader. A key metric with this diesel is that it will be the first-ever 30-mpg highway pickup truck. There’s always been talk about who’s going to get to that number first. Right now, we’re expecting to deliver that.”

So, is this the most fuel-efficient F-150? Is it the perfect marriage of diesel efficiency, light-weighting and turbocharging?  

“It’s the perfect combination of all those things and it all comes back to work. When you want to tow a trailer or haul a load, that torque is right there in that low range when you need it. It’s built that way, so it’s incredibly efficient from a fuel economy standpoint. If you’re doing a lot of heavy towing and you’re interested in fuel efficiency, this is your engine right here.”

Who is the core customer for F-150 diesel?

“It fits the needs of that core market of pickup truck buyers and users who recognize and appreciate what diesels do. There has always been that level of buyer out there who knows a diesel is built for work. That’s what this engine is designed for, and they recognize that.”

How will an anticipated hybrid option in 2020 play into the long-term powertrain strategy for F-150?

“The hybrid fits well with the offerings we have. It will appeal to those people who are really interested in technology and the philosophy of hybrids and how they operate. It will be built and designed in a way that fits what a work truck is supposed to do. It will enhance the work philosophy of our F-150 with some of the features it will offer. It’s another enhancement of both performance and efficiency. That’s been a common theme for us for decades now, not compromising anything.”

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