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Cheap gas won't let us off the hook: Ford CEO

The recent slide in oil prices—yielding sub-$3 a gallon gas nationally—won't deter drivers from what they want most from their vehicles: fuel economy, Ford Motor CEO Mark Fields told CNBC Tuesday.

He appeared on "Squawk Box" as the first new, lighter aluminum F-Series pickups were rolling off the assembly line at the Ford Rouge Center in Dearborn, Michigan, where 850 jobs were added to support the effort.

"What you get by having 700 pounds out of the vehicle is more capability," Fields said. "That's what the truck customers what. They want more payload. They want more towing. And they want more fuel efficiency."

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Even years ago when gas prices were half what they are now, miles-per-gallon efficiency was the "biggest dissatisfier," he said, noting that customers know oil and gas prices can go up as quickly as they've recently dropped.

Shawn Ebeler works on the door assembly on the new Ford F-150 truck at the Rouge Truck Plant in Dearborn, Mich.
AP Photo/Carlos Osorio
Shawn Ebeler works on the door assembly on the new Ford F-150 truck at the Rouge Truck Plant in Dearborn, Mich.

Therefore, Fields doesn't see a big, long-term migration to trucks and SUVs based solely on cheaper fuel costs. New models get buyers into showrooms, he said, pointing to the new Ford Expedition and the new Lincoln Navigator in addition to the new F-150.

The redesigned F-Series trucks will arrive at U.S. dealers next month, with availability in 90 markets worldwide in 2015.

The auto industry will sell 16.8 million to 17.2 million vehicles next year, Fields said, as replacement demand drives sales. "Fifty percent of vehicles are 10 years or older."

If industry sales were to peak in 2015, they're going to be at healthy levels for years to come, he said, predicting the pace of economic growth will continue to be good for carmakers.

A 25-year veteran at Ford, Fields was promoted from chief operating officer to CEO and took over in July, when Alan Mulally retired after nearly eight years at the helm.

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