In the red hot pickup wars, every accessory is a weapon.
The complexity of the Ford F-150 means that it can be ordered in a myriad of build combinations. Factoring in everything, from color options and packages to axle ratios and cab types, Ford would have to churn out over 1 billion trucks if it wanted to build one F-150 in each possible configuration. That might sound like overkill, but thanks to a patent uncovered by off-road.com, we now know that number is only set to increase. And why shouldn't it? Complexity aside, more options means more money for Ford.
The F-Series is a jack-of-all-trades in this business, garnering its spot at the top of America's sales chart by catering to construction workers, farmers, utility companies, luxury-seekers, commuters, and casual weekend warriors alike. To compete in this segment, automakers need each customizable part they can get to make their trucks better than the others. Even then buyers still flock to aftermarket parts suppliers for accessories like bed liners, motorcycle ramps, and truck caps to further personalize their pickups. Ford isn't too happy about that. It would rather find a way to take that money from the little guys and keep it in its own coffers. To accomplish that, Ford is toying with the idea of a power retractable truck cap.
The retractable soft cover that is the subject of this patent is controlled electronically and will likely be activated using a button in the cab. The frame that supports the soft cover is attached to rails that run on either side of the truck bed. Cool factor aside, Ford's retractable cover is useful for anyone who might want to store things in the bed without the risk of exposing them to thieves or the elements and who don't want to invest in a hard shell for the bed. The patent itself shows the retractable soft top covering the bed of a Ford Ranger. We'll be getting that in the US soon enough, but off-road.com seems to think that American truck buyers are more likely to see it on the F-150 first, perhaps as early as 2018 when the restyled F-150 will make a splash.