If the people want it, Ford will sell it.
Ford is considering bringing a track-focused performance component to its trucks and SUVs. Blue Oval executives believe there's enough demand for carbon fiber wheels to expand their use beyond high-end sports cars. Typically, lightweight carbon wheels are reserved for use in performance cars, but the benefit of weight savings isn't limited to the racetrack.
Following the demise of the Mustang Shelby GT350 and the Ford GT after the 2020 model year, the Mustang Shelby GT500 became the only vehicle in Ford's stable available with carbon wheels, although that quickly came to an end. Obviously, they look great and carbon wheels are lighter than those made from traditional materials like steel and aluminum. But Ford execs now believe the case is being made for the use of such wheels on select trucks and SUVs.
That's according to Ali Jammoul, Ford's vehicle program director for icons and Ford Performance. Speaking recently to CarExpert, he admitted that "you can actually migrate that technology to trucks... pickup trucks, SUVs, for sure," before admitting that he thinks Ford needs to experiment with it.
But what might the benefits be? Wheels are considered unsprung weight, which is any part of a car's weight not supported by its suspension system. Heavy wheels create more inertia and require more effort from the suspension to keep planted on the road. Lighter wheels are easier to manage and can help provide better traction. The reduced weight also makes carbon wheels a compelling option for EVs, where every extra pound counts. The downside is that carbon fiber is expensive and replacing just one wheel can cost thousands of dollars.
Some might say that a carbon fiber wheel would serve no purpose on a truck or SUV, but according to Jammoul, the reason he believes they should be offered is simple: people want them.
"It's weight savings. It looks great. And customers love it. They're willing to pay," he said.
There's no shortage of vehicles in the Ford stable that could benefit from lighter wheels, though some are better suited for the material than others. The F-150 Raptor, Bronco Raptor, and upcoming Ranger Raptor could make good use of carbon wheels, though bashing around trails with wheels that cost upwards of $5,000 apiece is a recipe for heartbreak.
Less risky candidates for carbon wheels in Ford's fleet include the Edge ST, Explorer ST and the Mustang Mach-E - road-biased performance SUVs. The ST models' sporty leanings and aggressive styling make them low-hanging fruit for performance gains from carbon wheels, while a wheel weight reduction could improve range and performance for the electric Mach-E. Other automakers are on board with carbon, too, as Bentley offers a carbon wheel for the Bentayga SUV that saves almost 53 pounds of unsprung weight.