With F-150, Ford hopes to get more drivers on its bandwagon

On the road again
On the road again   

Ford Motors' F-series is one of the best-selling trucks in recent memory. Based on that, the automaker's new CEO is a betting a refresh of the popular model will set the company up for a profitable run for years to come.

Ford is the sixth-largest automaker globally, with North America being its biggest market, according to 2013 sales figures. This week, for the first time, the U.S. auto giant began rolling out aluminum-sided F-150s trucks for production on the assembly line—a move it hopes will increase market share.

Speaking from Ford's Dearborn Truck Plant, CEO Mark Fields was optimistic the lighter, more efficient models would be a boon to the pickup truck market. Ford earns a profit margin of up to $10,000 per vehicle.

"We can't wait to get them into our customers' hands," he told CNBC.

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On average, an F-series truck is sold every 42 seconds around the globe. Ford is hoping to ramp that number up significantly, especially with gravity finally catching up with gas prices.

Field was bullish on the broader health of the economy, evidenced by retail gas at its lowest level in about three years.

"That puts more money in consumers' pockets," Fields pointed out. "Clearly, it allows people to afford vehicles more. That's a positive for the auto industry and it's a positive for us."

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Economy may power sales

The new Ford F-150 truck is examined at the Rouge Truck Plant in Dearborn, Mich. on Nov. 6, 2014.
Carlos Osorio | AP
The new Ford F-150 truck is examined at the Rouge Truck Plant in Dearborn, Mich. on Nov. 6, 2014.

Consumers with more discretionary income could make the big-ticket purchase of a new car a more accessible reality. Auto sales are on track for the industry's best year since 2006.

"You're seeing replacement demand," Fields said. "50 percent of the cars that are out on the roads today are 10 years or older."

Fields believes increased consumer confidence and a brighter employment outlook contribute to a strengthening economy. "I don't think we're at a peak," he continued. "We'll probably see a little bit more growth, but I think that growth is sustainable."

Even the threat of gradually higher interest rates doesn't faze his optimism. "When interest rates rise, that means the economy is doing better," Fields said. "A lot of our customers finance our vehicles, so that may raise the cost of those vehicles for a bit," he said.

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"Put it into the context of a generally-improving economy (and) a generally improving employment situation and I think that bodes well," Fields added.

A sunny outlook allows Ford to consider refining its corporate image and taste for innovation, beyond the aluminum-sided F-150.

"We're thinking of ourselves more as a mobility company than just a car and truck company," Fields said. "The technological enablers that are available to us as an industry versus 5 or even 2 years ago is mind-boggling."

"On the Money" airs on CNBC Sundays at 7:30 pm ET