Public Perception is Aluminum’s Biggest Enemy

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2016 F-150 Special Edition Appearance Package - 2015-06-23 10.53.03

The next generation of Super Duty pickup trucks is on its way, and we know that the new truck will follow in the F-150’s footsteps with the aluminum body construction. Recently, Chevrolet put out a few hit pieces against using aluminum as comprehensively as Ford does, highlighting the biggest issue aluminum has had since Ford said they were going to use it; public perception.

The premise behind the bear advertisement is simple. If you were stuck in the room with a bear, would you seek the protection of a steel cage or an aluminum cage. The men that had to make that choice chose the steel each time.

When people think of aluminum, they commonly think of cans of soda or beer. Those cans are designed to crush easily to make them easier to recycle. They only need to be strong enough to hold the liquid inside, saving weight and cost.

F-150

People don’t think about how aluminum has been used on dump trucks for years. They don’t think about the aerospace industry that relies so heavily on the material. They don’t imagine that the material is being used on vehicles sent to space.

They only think about what they’ve had experience with.

Now, stay with me for a moment as I talk about professional wrestling. One particular type of match is called a Steel Cage Match. However, when you actually look at the bars that hold you in, it’s just fencing you might use to keep an animal penned in. While it might me strong enough to climb, it doesn’t necessarily inspire the most confidence in protection against a bear.

Now we can argue whether the cage is actually steel or aluminum, but that’s not the point.

The point is perception. If I were told that trucks have always been made of the same material designed to hold professional wrestlers inside the ring, I wouldn’t feel so confident modern pickup trucks surviving in a crash.

Ford F-150 Tough Science

Ford has gone to great lengths to highlight the strengths of aluminum. They never just say they’re using aluminum; they say they’re using “high strength, military grade” aluminum. They’re trying to win against decades of public perception.

So what does Ford need to do to get the general public on board?

People are aware that Ford is using aluminum on their pickup trucks. Whenever I’m behind the wheel of a 2015, and someone asks about it, they’re almost always aware that the truck uses aluminum.

But how do you convince people of the strength? Perhaps they need to employ a Toyota approach.

To help make the point of the strength of the Tundra, they’d film it doing ridiculous stunts. These stunts were designed to push the truck to its limits, and effectively show in 30 seconds or less the strength and build quality of the trucks.

The aluminum Ford uses is just as strong and lighter than steel. That’s because it was manufactured to be. How would you go about changing peoples’ minds about the construction of the F-150?

Let us know your thoughts over in the forums!

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

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