By Deepa Seetharaman
DETROIT (Reuters) - Ford Motor Co, the second-largest U.S. automaker, will offer this fall an F-150 pickup truck that can run on compressed natural gas to take advantage of the resurgence in truck demand.
The move also allows Ford to capture consumers' interest, as rivals General Motors Co and Fiat SpA's Chrysler Group LLC sell revamped versions of their trucks to U.S. car shoppers. Ford is expected to introduce its overhauled truck next year.
U.S. demand for trucks is quickly growing, stoked by strength in the housing and oil industries. U.S. sales of full-size pickups are increasing at almost three times the pace of the overall industry.
The appeal of compressed natural gas as an alternative to gasoline is its relatively low price and growing abundance, thanks to fracking, but a lack of refueling stations is a liability.
The cost of a 2014 F-150 with a 3.7-liter V6 engine that can run on both natural gas and gasoline can cost nearly $10,000 extra, depending on fuel-tank capacity.
"With the money saved using CNG, customers could start to see payback on their investment in as little as 24 to 36 months," said Jon Coleman, Ford fleet sustainability and technology manager.
Ford said CNG sells for an average of $2.11 per gallon of gasoline equivalent. The national average for unleaded regular fuel is $3.66 per gallon, the company said.
The F-150 is Ford's eighth vehicle in its CNG-ready lineup. Ford also offers this option in its Transit and E-Series vans as well as its F-350 trucks.
The automaker said it is "on pace" to sell more than 15,000 CNG-equipped vehicles, up 25 percent from 2012. One recent client was communications company AT&T , which bought 650 F-350 trucks with the CNG option.
(Reporting By Deepa Seetharaman;editing by Sofina Mirza-Reid)