Did you know that the F-150 has been the best-selling truck in America for 40 years? But what makes it so popular? If you searched for a “Ford truck dealer near me,” you’d likely be flooded with F-150 ads. This extreme level of popularity comes from its exceptional competency and capability. But like any legend, there’s so much more to the truck than what meets the eye.
The F-150’s popularity also comes from its extensive history in the Ford lineup and what the truck represents in America. Ask any F-150 owner, and they’ll tell you that the truck symbolizes the American work ethic and the pride that comes from living in the land of the free, home of the brave. As an F-150 owner, I can attest to this because the truck symbolizes something greater; its reliability gives me the freedom to pursue my greatest aspirations and feel unlimited.
Am I waxing poetic? Perhaps, but for a good reason. Here’s what makes the F-150 the best-selling truck in America—and a symbol of pride, hard work, determination, and sheer capability from sea to shining sea.
A Living Legacy
As with every Ford, the F-150 traces its roots to Henry Ford’s Model T of the early 1900s. The Model T was revolutionary, putting the world on wheels; however, Henry Ford quickly discovered improvements were needed. So, along with many other drivers, he modified the Model T to his needs, ultimately transforming it into a more versatile truck. This modification inspired the 1917 Model TT truck, the first Ford truck that remained in production until 1928.
Fast forward several decades to the mid-1940s, when America was slowly recovering from a major fuel crisis. Growing restrictions in the automotive industry made truck design difficult—and at the time, Ford only offered the compact F-100 and the larger F-250. However, despite these restrictions, Ford practiced ingenuity and debuted the first-generation F-Series (later known as the F-150). Unlike the F-100, which was required to use unleaded fuel, the F-Series skirted the rules and didn’t rely on a catalytic converter or other emissions-related parts to run on leaded gasoline.
The first-generation F-150 proved so successful that Ford eventually discontinued the F-100. Since then, the truck has continually evolved to meet the demands of Americans, enriching their lives with its capability, convenience, and function. This evolution comes in many forms. For example, consider the F-150’s use of a twin I-beam suspension and coil springs to improve its ride quality in the 1960s—or the use of all-aluminum exterior panels in 2015.
In addition, the F-150’s ongoing powertrain updates to engines like the Coyote V8 and EcoBoost added to the truck’s capability. At the same time, special editions like the SVT Lightning and Raptor catered to a variety of needs, enhancing the F-150’s capability and further solidifying its fate as America’s favorite truck.
The F-150’s revolutionary features and design details contribute to its popularity over the last 40 years. The truck reflects Ford’s acute awareness of what drivers need and want in a workhorse, proving the automaker can meet those needs and exceed every expectation. So, what components make up the F-150’s revolutionary history and contribute to its status as America’s top-selling vehicle?
#1. New Standards of Luxury
Until the 1950s and 1960s, trucks were utilitarian workhorses not designed for comfort. Fortunately, this changed with the 1956 F-Series, with its wrap-around front windshield, optional power steering, seatbelts, and radio (all luxuries at the time). Also, ride quality dramatically improved in 1965 with Ford’s use of a twin I-beam front suspension and coil springs, an update that rival automakers like Chevrolet and GMC would only adopt later.
#2. 4WD Is Relatively New
Jeep’s prominent role in World War II earned the automaker a strong reputation for its four-wheel-drive systems, which put Jeep legions ahead of every other automaker, including Ford. For years, F-Series owners had to rely on aftermarket parts to outfit their trucks with four-wheel-drive. However, this changed in 1959 when Ford finally added four-wheel drive as an option on the iconic road warrior.
#3. Endless Options for Customization
One of the many aspects that make the F-150 so popular is that it’s customizable to your needs. There’s an F-150 trim or special edition for everyone, and it all started in the late 1960s and early 1970s. As American drivers donned bell bottoms and platforms, Ford gave drivers something to get excited about with a series of unique models. These included the Super Camper Special that readied the F-Series for an overhead camper, ideal for adventurers. Today, those special editions look slightly different, with models like the rugged and powerful Raptor that can satisfy any need for speed—whether on the pavement or blazing a new trail.
#4. The Sales Numbers Say It All
It’s safe to say that the F-150 is a pretty big deal. But how big is the F-150 in terms of numbers? From 2017 to 2020, Ford sold around 900,000 F-150s each year, translating to 103 trucks sold every hour—or 2,486 trucks sold each day.
#5. Incomparable by Every Standard
The F-150 is America’s best-selling truck because it’s no stranger to hard work, living up to the “Built Ford Tough” mantra. More often than not, the F-150 leads the segment with best-in-class towing and payload ratings, putting it ahead of rivals like Ram, Chevrolet, GMC, Toyota, and Nissan. Similarly, the F-150 is usually the first to adopt new technology, giving drivers more reasons to choose the F-150 over any other truck.
For instance, the 2022 F-150 offers leading towing and payload capacities, plus a cutting-edge 12” touchscreen display that’s home to the renowned SYNC 4 infotainment system. In addition, the SYNC 4 system’s over-the-air updates ensure the F-150 operates on the latest software, including revolutionary trailering tools like Pro Trailer Backup Assist that make navigating a trailer in reverse stress-free. The only other automaker to offer something similar is Ram, but the feature is far less intuitive and makes the F-150 the ultimate heavy-duty workhorse.
The F-150’s functional design features also set it apart in the segment. For example, you’ll find the F-150 offers a stowable shifter that gives you a flat work surface via the center console. When you’re not working from the cabin, you can get any job done with the F-150’s Pro Power Onboard, a class-exclusive tool that turns the truck into a mobile generator and gives you the ability to power tools and equipment wherever you are. You won’t find this capability on any other truck in the segment, giving the F-150 another significant advantage.
America’s Favorite Workhorse
There’s something to be said about how you feel when you get behind the wheel of an F-150. For me, it gives me a greater sense of pride and confidence because I know the truck can handle whatever the road and life throw its way. It’s just as comfortable on the highway or in town as it is on the trail, making it a well-rounded workhorse that can readily meet the demands of life without breaking a sweat.
However, the F-150 is a lot more than that. It represents what Henry Ford set out to accomplish in the early 1900s when he put the world on wheels with the Model T. Even then, Ford knew he could improve the Model T—and did as much with the Model TT truck. That evolution continued with the F-Series to the F-150 we know and love today.
It proves that even America’s best-selling truck has room for improvement, which pushes us all to do better when pursuing our greatest aspirations. That’s what makes the F-150 America’s favorite workhorse and the top-selling truck for 40 years—and counting.