DETROIT -- Sales of Ford F-150 pickups with the optional EcoBoost 3.5-liter V-6 engine have surpassed company estimates, with some dealers reporting robust demand as gasoline prices rise.
"We had a sales forecast but it has jumped up a little faster than we thought," said Marc Lapine, consumer marketing manager for Ford Motor Co.
Credit the increase to rising fuel prices. The EcoBoost V-6 is one of Ford's newest engines, offering horsepower and torque comparable to a V-8 and the fuel economy of a V-6.
The price of the optional EcoBoost engine ranges from $750 to $1,750 depending on the F-150 model. Production began in January. So far this month, F-150s with the engine option account for 36 percent of F-150 sales and 40 percent of the pickup's orders, Lapine said.
There is a 13-day supply of F-150s with the option, he said.
Not staying put
"We thought there would be a little more time between the early adopters and the other people who said, 'Hey, now I am ready to buy it,' " Lapine said. "It is not staying put very long."
The EcoBoost engine increases fuel economy up to 20 percent and cuts carbon dioxide emissions up to 15 percent compared with comparable V-8s, the automaker said.
With average U.S. gasoline prices near $4 a gallon, consumers are looking at smaller, more fuel-efficient vehicles.
Wayne Seidel, general manager of Hiller Ford in Franklin, Wis., said the response to the EcoBoost F-150 has been "awesome."
"As soon as this fuel thing started, probably two months ago, all of a sudden people are coming in, asking, 'Do you have an EcoBoost?' I've sold every one that I can get my hands on," Seidel said.
Ford told dealers that demand for the EcoBoost V-6 would evolve slowly because owners of V-8-powered pickups would be reluctant to buy trucks with smaller engines.
"The reception of the truck has been beyond our expectations," Seidel said.
Ford touts the EcoBoost V-6 as having the power and torque of a V-8. In addition to turbocharging with direct injection, EcoBoost technology includes variable valve timing. The engine produces 365 hp and 420 pounds-feet of torque. It is rated at 16 mpg city/22 mpg highway. With EcoBoost, the pickup can tow up to 11,300 pounds.
By comparison, Ford's base two-wheel-drive F-150 has a 302-hp 3.7-liter V-6 that produces 278 pounds-feet of torque. The pickup is rated at 17 mpg city/23 mpg highway and it can tow up to 6,100 pounds.
Additionally, Ford offers a 360-hp 5.0-liter V-8 with 380 pounds-feet of torque, rated at 15 mpg city/21 mpg highway. It can tow up to 10,000 pounds.
Ford's 411-hp 6.2-liter V-8 produces 434 pounds-feet of torque and is rated at 13 mpg city/18 mpg highway. It can tow up to 11,300 pounds.
During a telephone interview, Mitchell Dale,dealer principal of McRee Ford in Dickinson, Texas, said the response to the V-6 EcoBoost option has been "terrific."
Dale has delivered about 27 F-150s with the option.
"People are amazed at the power," Dale said. He said several customers traded in diesel-powered Super Duty pickups -- used mainly for transportation instead of towing -- for the F-150 EcoBoost. They are pleased with the fuel economy and the power, he said.
Last September Ford dealers received demonstration vehicles to familiarize owners of V-8-powered pickups with the new V-6 technology.
Additionally, Ford has used Facebook and other social media to tout the technology.
"We did a good job getting the word out and helping core customers understand EcoBoost technology and how it can be a durable, reliable alternative to a V-8," Lapine said.
Meanwhile, Jim Scott, co-owner of Jarrett Scott Ford in Plant City, Fla., said sales of F-150s with EcoBoost V-6s "are not humongous."
Scott blamed higher fuel prices for an overall decrease in his pickup sales.
But he added: "It's an awesome engine."