Have No Fear, Aluminum is Here

By -

2015F150_SV3_5070-640

The 2015 Ford F-150 will be the largest mass-produced vehicle made mostly out of aluminum. Once the Rouge plant in Dearborn is running at full capacity, they’ll be producing an astonishing 60 trucks per hour. Not only is that a lot of trucks, but that’s a lot of aluminum.

When Ford made the announcement that they were going to construct America’s best-selling vehicle out of the same stuff soda cans are made out of, people began to question whether it’d be a good idea. How long would it last? What is going to happen to repair costs? Will insurance rates go up?

Recently, we asked you if you thought the media stories are overblown or if they were right on. Many of you aren’t concerned about Ford’s use of aluminum. However, a few of you expressed concerns about the material, repair costs, and overall vehicle costs. Let’s take a few moments to address some of the concerns and share why I don’t believe the concerns will become reality.

Aluminum Makes the Truck More Expensive

F-150 Aluminum Body

The starting price of the 2015 Ford F-150 is $25,420. The starting price of the 2014 F-150 is $25,025. That’s a price increase of $395. Additionally, the 2015 comes with an all-new 3.5L V6 engine, getting a combine EPA mileage rating of 20 mpg. That’s a 1 mpg increase over the 3.7L that came with the 2014 model.

If there is a significant new production cost with aluminum, and there is, it’s being mostly absorbed by Ford through the complete renovation of the Rouge plant, along with the eventual conversion of the Kansas City plant. Dealerships also absorb some of the costs by purchasing $40,000 worth of equipment to allow them to work on the new trucks.

Ford’s bottom line may suffer short term by the added costs, but in the long-term it should all work out as the quantities of scale take over. The demand for aluminum will require more efficient ways of producing the material for automotive application, which will lower the cost.

Aluminum Makes Insurance More Expensive

From the get go, Ford has been working with insurance companies to make sure they fully understand the aluminum repair process so that rates won’t increase. Forum member 1piece-at-atime works at a body shop that is certified to work on the new truck, and during training many of his fellow classmates were members of the insurance industry.

At the shop where I work we’ve been adding equipment, and training, for the new F150 for months. It’s been a big investment. We are now certified by Ford for aluminum repair. One of the training classes I attended about half of the people were from the insurance industry. They said that insurance costs were supposed to be comparable to 2014 trucks. And instructors say the new trucks are supposed to be very repairable. Is there going to be a learning curve for all involved? Yes! But we in the collision industry have been working with aluminum panels for quite a few years. All auto manufacturers have made big changes in how cars and trucks react in a collision. There are many different types of steel used to make car bodies safer. In the trade we learn to adjust. We have to.

Repairing aluminum will be better than having to replace an entire piece, which is how aluminum pieces were often repaired in the past. Ford’s special tools to work on the truck should keep repair costs in line with a steel truck.

Aluminum Isn’t As Strong

Please. Yes, if the truck was completely constructed out of pop cans, you’d have an issue. I have personally driven the new truck. I have handled body pieces. I have seen the testing these trucks go through. I have no doubts about the truck’s overall strength. Aluminum won’t rust, and hopefully the measures Ford has taken will help prevent corrosion of the aluminum.

Ford’s best selling vehicle is the F-150. The executives at Ford get paid based on the performance of the stock. If Ford started selling a subpar truck shareholders would dump the stock right away. There’s no way that they’d put such a popular vehicle on sale that isn’t up to snuff. I know that that’s asking for faith from the company, but it’s just good business sense to build a good product.

Aluminum Isn’t New

f-150Aluminum has been used in vehicle construction for a long time now. When a manufacturer wants to make their vehicle lighter, they go aluminum (or carbon fiber). The new Mustang uses copious amounts of aluminum. So does the Chevrolet Corvette. Aluminum has been used in the construction of automobiles since 1899. Carl Benz, of the obvious German manufacturer, used aluminum in engine construction as early as 1901.

We’ve learned a lot in the 100+ years in the use of aluminum, and that knowledge and expertise is put to use in the new F-150.

Should you buy a 2014 if you still need a truck? Only if you want a deal. There’s no reason to jump in now to avoid getting an aluminum-version of the truck.

Join the debates in the forum.>>

Chad Kirchner is a regular contributor to Corvette Forum and Ford Truck Enthusiasts, among other auto sites.

Comments ()