Where the aluminum road will lead
A look at how the industry will have to adapt to the 2015 Ford F-150
Large-scale production of aluminum-bodied vehicles has been limited, and the market of used-vehicle parts and bodies for recyclers is based on steel. The 2015 F-150 changes that. Aluminum is more difficult to recycle and commands a higher price than steel. It's unclear how aluminum scrappage from the F-150 will be dealt with, or even how many used F-150s will end up in scrap yards over the next several years, but the introduction of the aluminum F-150 will require recyclers to adjust their evaluation and processing methods.
SPECIAL EQUIPMENT SUPPLIERS
Aluminum bodies will be assembled with industrial adhesive and rivets, not traditional welding. That means a new network of suppliers will be needed for items such as rivets, rivet guns, glue guns and more. Body shops will need special tools to vacuum aluminum dust and to keep aluminum repair spaces separate from steel repair spaces.
Ford has not announced pricing for the 2015 F-150, although Ford's truck marketing manager, Doug Scott, has said it will be about the same as the current truck: roughly $25,600 to $57,000. Because aluminum is more expensive than steel, some worry that the truck could be more costly. But because aluminum is lighter, the trade-off could be lower fuel costs. For fleet buyers who use the truck for work, total cost of ownership, durability and capability will be the most important issues. Ford says the aluminum truck will be as tough as or tougher than the outgoing model.
At least initially, dealerships will be the main source for customers with questions or concerns about the aluminum F-150. Dealers who operate body shops will have to send their body shop personnel to school to learn how to properly fix the truck. Dealers also will have to invest in new equipment and remodel their body shops to segregate aluminum repairs from steel repairs. (When different metals come in contact with each other, corrosion may occur.) Dealers without body shops may have to pay to train personnel at their designated body repair facilities.
Ford executives estimate that insurance companies may have to increase premiums as much as 10 percent to insure the aluminum F-150, but they point out that the outgoing F-150 cost less to insure than the competition. Higher premiums could mean lower residual values as well. As mechanics realize the frequency and costs of repairs for the truck, insurance companies will adjust premiums accordingly.
The introduction of the 2015 F-150 may throw a wrench into the works for other automakers' future product plans. To compete in fuel economy, strength and durability, truck manufacturers may have to experiment with aluminum and other materials.
INDEPENDENT REPAIR SHOPS
Ford has yet to roll out a certification system for mechanics to be trained to work on the aluminum F-150.
You can reach Bradford Wernle at email@example.com