Ford Motor Co. will offer a natural gas option for its 2014 F-150 pickup truck models, turning drivers of America’s most popular vehicle into potential consumers of the low-cost fuel.
The option, scheduled to be announced Wednesday, will add a major prospect for consumers hoping to use natural gas to fuel cars and light-duty trucks, since only one such vehicle — the Honda Civic Natural Gas — is available now for direct sales from an automaker to U.S. customers.
“There is the potential that we may look back on this launch as when natural gas really became a mass-market fuel for retail customers as well as fleet customers,” said Jon Coleman, sustainability and technology manager for Ford, in an interview with FuelFix.
Though no one — not even Ford — is predicting large sales for the natural gas versions of the F-150, the model may draw particular interest in Texas — the nation’s top producer of natural gas and No. 1 buyer of pickup trucks.
And Ford’s F-series, of which the F-150 is the most popular model, has long been the top selling car line in America.
Ford sold about 367,000 F-series trucks in the first half of the year, according to data from trade publication Automotive News. Toyota’s Camry, the top-selling sedan, notched about 207,000 sales in the first half of 2013, according to the figures.
“Texas is such a huge truck market. By a long shot it’s the No. 1 truck market in the country,” said David Whiston, an analyst for investment research firm Morningstar in Chicago. “So if there’s a lot of demand for natural gas and pickups in Texas alone, it’s not surprising to see Ford make this move.”
In Texas, where natural gas wells dot the landscape, pride may drive some buyers who want to consume the local fuel, said Lynn Lyon, director of fuel market development for oil and natural gas producer Pioneer Natural Resources.
“There’s a pride in energy production and the fact that we have been able to have scientific advancements that make this available,” Lyon said.