General Motors Spies Admit Going Undercover at Ford Truck Plant

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Ford Dearborn Assembly Plant

Spy games are nothing new in the world of competitive business. But to readily admit it is an interesting tactic.

If you were around during the Cold War, you already know that there are spies everywhere. Heck, they could be your neighbors or even your poker buddy. But the same techniques are often employed in the hyper competitive automotive industry. So it’s really no surprise that we recently learned that General Motors engineers went “undercover” at Ford’s Dearborn assembly plant to gather up some ideas while they were developing the new Chevy Silverado and GMC Sierra.

Tim Herrick, executive chief engineer for GM truck programs, admitted to Reuters that a group of his engineers joined public tours of the plant specifically to see how Ford handled the construction of the F-150’s aluminum body. Ultimately, GM decided not to go full-on aluminum with their new line of pickups, instead opting for a hybrid solution of sorts. But their spy games didn’t stop there.

Ford Dearborn Assembly Plant

The engineers noticed that Ford “had a real hard time getting those doors to fit,” according to Herrick. Using stopwatches, they timed the process over and over again. Then they went to the trouble of actually buying F-150 doors, tearing them apart, and studying them.

This led them to the conclusion that they could instead use a combination of aluminum and thinner steel to save weight instead of going all aluminum. GM also believes that going this route will ultimately help buoy profits. “We think we have thousands of dollars advantage (over Ford) just in the aluminum costs. It’s big,” Herrick said.

Ford Dearborn Assembly Plant

Given the F-Series’ 40-year dominance of the sales charts, it’s not at all surprising that GM would try to steal intelligence from them. But the fact that they would admit it so openly is actually rather humorous. We’re guessing that it’s more of an effort to convince the buying public that they’re making a “superior” product. But we’re certainly not fooled!

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Brett Foote is a longtime contributor to Internet Brands’ Auto sites, including Chevrolet Forum, Rennlist, and Ford Truck Enthusiasts, among other sites.

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