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2013-01-02 12:58

BIGGER, BETTER AND GREENER: Ford engineer Jackie DiMarco has a new challenge set out for her - to make the F-150 (above) lighter without losing performance or durability.

DETROIT, Michigan - Two years ago, in 2010, Jackie DiMarco helped Ford break away from the traditional V8 engines in its F-150 light trucks for lighter, more fuel-efficient offerings.

The Detroit News reports that now, with the next-generation F-150 coming out in 2014, an even bigger proposition awaits her: making the vehicle lighter - hundreds of kilograms lighter, in fact - without losing durability or performance.

Yep,Jackie is a woman... DiMarco is chief engineer for the F-150, the best-selling bakkies driven by red-blooded American males for the past 36 years.They've existed for six decades.

CHIEF ENGINEER

She is the first woman to hold that position in the six-plus decades of the truck's existence. The 40-year-old, who grew up a short drive from a General Motors plant in Ohio, has worked on the F-150, plus the Expedition and Navigator, for two years.

When she stepped in as chief engineer of the F-150 in 2010, the DetNews says she faced a challenge: a new line of engines that includes a new V6, V8 and most significantly a 3.5 EcoBoost V6.

DiMarco told the DetNews: "There's been a lot of product change. On paper, the EcoBoost engine is a fantastic truck engine and we knew it was the right thing to do. The challenge was the mindset that you need eight cylinders and that you need the displacement."

Ford wildly under-estimated buyers' receptiveness to the smaller EcoBoost engine. In fact, the automaker now sells more EcoBoost-equipped F-150s in one month than it thought it would sell in a year, according to the DetNews.

Michelle Krebs, auto analyst at Edmunds.com: "They've done a very good job convincing consumers that's the way to go. The EcoBoost has almost become a brand in itself, which is brilliant."

With more than 40% of F-150 buyers opting for the EcoBoost engine, DiMarco said the new challenge had become finding enough of the engines to meet demand.

"We've many different series within F-150," DiMarco said. "Certainly, the work truck business is important to us but we really run the whole gamut. There are a lot of women driving the trucks."

ONE-SIDED

Most truck buyers will continue to be male — more than 80% - but DiMarco says women will continue to find the vehicles an attractive alternative. There will be enough room in the crew cab for child safety seats and the trucks will still be able to tow just about anything.

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