For those drivers who pull away from the pump with their gas tank cap on the trunk lid, Ford Motor Co. has begun to make good on a 2006 promise to get rid of the caps on its entire model lineup.
Jettisoning the pesky caps will become most apparent in the new 2009 F-150 pickup truck, Ford's top-selling vehicle, which was unveiled this week at the North American International Auto Show. It will hit showrooms in the fall.
The capless refueling system already is available on the 2008 Ford Explorer sport utility vehicle, and it's coming to the 2009 Flex crossover and Lincoln MKS luxury sedan, said Matt O'Leary, chief engineer on the pickup.
The feature may not cause people to buy the trucks, but O'Leary said it's something that they'll appreciate every time they fill up.
"People just don't like the cap," he said. "Anyone who drives a vehicle hates that."
The system, which came from Ford's NASCAR racing experience, first appeared on the 2003 Ford GT sports car. It has two small spring-loaded tabs that pull back a flap inside the fuel filler neck as the nozzle hits them. When the nozzle is pulled out, the flap closes.
In addition to the convenience factor, the capless system also has environmental benefits, O'Leary said, by limiting the escape of gasoline vapors. And it ends a common problem that occurs when a cap isn't screwed on tightly enough — a check engine light that appears on the dashboard due to a break in the fuel system's vacuum.
Ford says eventually all of its vehicles will be capless. It originally made the promise to eliminate the caps at an automotive conference in August 2006.
Aaron Bragman, an auto analyst with the consulting firm Global Insight in Troy, Mich., called the new system a nice "surprise and delight" feature, but said no one would buy a Ford because of it.
"It's a nice addition, but by no means a decision-maker," he said.
O'Leary said he expects other automakers to develop their own versions of the system and that it eventually would spread to all vehicles.
Mark LaNeve, GM North America vice president for vehicle sales, service and marketing, said he isn't so sure.
"The removal of the gas cap never shows up like a problem in any of our research," he said.