Ford’s Aluminum Putting GM on the Defensive

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2015 Ford F-150 Official Vehicle of CES.

Debates still rage in our forums on whether or not aluminum is an acceptable material to use when constructing a pickup truck. Some of you liken the material to the same thing used in beer cans, and cite this post about how it even crushes like a beer can.

Of course, the material is strong enough for vehicle work. If it wasn’t safe, it wouldn’t be sold. Plus, dump trucks have used aluminum for a long time without complaint.

Ford has managed to do something with the new F-150 that it hadn’t done in previous trucks; make people care what the truck was made out of. Not only are you all concerned about the material, the repairability, and the insurance rates for the new truck, but so is the general public.

But Ford has also managed to change GM’s conversation as well. Take a look at any modern Chevrolet or GMC commercial, and you’ll see them mention the steel construction and how that allows the trucks to be extra strong.

Do you ever recall seeing a truck commercial advertising steel?

I know I haven’t. Vehicle commercials often tout the newest and greatest technologies on board. That could be the infotainment system, a new safety feature, or even extensive use of aluminum or carbon fiber. But I haven’t seen a manufacturer advertise that their product is made out of steel.

I’m assuming that’s because in the past, making a vehicle out of steel was just a foregone conconclusion. “Of course it’s made out of steel,” you’d say. “No need to spend money advertising it.”

Now people are asking themselves, “should I get an aluminum truck or a steel truck?” I would never think a normal truck buyer would ask themselves that, but with Ford advertising aluminum, and now GM countering with their steel message, the average Joe is clearly paying attention to construction material.

Let’s not forget that Ford is still using steel on the 2015 F-150. It’s found in the fully-boxed frame. In fact, the strength of that steel is one of the reasons why aluminum construction was even possible.

But why hasn’t GM made the switch to aluminum, if they’re so afraid of it? Because they don’t have to, at least not yet. The F-150 lost 700 pounds by making the transition to aluminum, but it should be noted that the F-150 was a heavier truck when it was made out of steel. The F-150 lost a lot of weight, but doesn’t weigh all that much less than the competition.

Eventually, all trucks will be made out of aluminum. It’s still expensive to make a truck out of the material, but Ford has done a good job at keeping their costs in-line and not having to raise the price of the new F-150 to accomodate those costs. But eventually everyone will want to lighten their vehicles by switching to aluminum.

Until that day comes, expect to see the other truck manufacturers touting a material that they’ve always used to make trucks; steel.

What do you think? Let us know in the forums!

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

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