NEW ORLEANS -- Ford is offering dealerships with body shops a 20 percent discount on the $30,000 to $50,000 in special equipment and training needed to repair the 2015 aluminum pickup.
Dealers can get a maximum of $10,000 off if they buy the gear before Oct. 31, said Paul Massie, Ford collision marketing manager.
Ford is offering dealers the rebate so "they can be aluminum-capable before the vehicle launches," Massie said. Ford has said the 2015 F-150 will launch in the fourth quarter this year. Ford is showing the pickup to dealers at the convention after unveiling it to much fanfare two weeks ago at the Detroit auto show.
Ford is displaying numerous pieces of aluminum-handling equipment at its stand. They include welding guns, riveting guns, air-filtration systems, vacuums for picking up aluminum dust and aluminum work stations. Equipment suppliers and technicians from Ford's Rotunda tool supply unit are showing dealers the ropes.
Aluminum has different properties than steel and requires some different tools, though most dealership body shops are already equipped to handle basic repairs such as damaged bumpers and grilles, Massie said.
"The majority of accidents can be repaired by any body shop today," Massie said. Those include bumpers and grilles. But special equipment is needed to make larger structural repairs, he said.
"The main thing is the separation of equipment," Massie said.
Aluminum dust can become contaminated and doesn't mix well with steel dust, so dealerships must erect a large curtain to keep work areas separate.
"One of the things about this program is that we do not require a clean room," he said.
Massie said average investment per dealership will depend on what equipment each already owns. Many Ford dealers are already experienced at working with aluminum. The current F-150 has an aluminum hood.
Randall Reed, owner of six Ford dealerships in Texas and Oklahoma, says he will be ordering the equipment for his body shops as soon as possible.
"We're going to try to buy this early so we're not sitting there in October taking a big hit," said Reed, whose stores sell more than 5,000 pickups a year. Because his body shops are so big, Reed says he can't afford to wait.
Reed predicted the new F-150 would be a huge hit: "It's going to be a game changer in Texas."