NADA pitch aims to reassure dealers on repair issues

Ford's big aluminum show-and-tell

NADA pitch aims to reassure dealers on repair issues

Ford engineer Gerry Bonanni says the construction of the 2015 aluminum F-150 will allow easier repairs. “The advantage to the technician and body shop is they have repair options they would not have had.”
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2015 Ford F-150
Ford showed dealers a color-coded cutaway version of an F-150 body to help them understand the repair process.

Compiled by Bradford Wernle

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Photo credit: TOM WOROBEC

Ford COO Mark Fields said the company thought carefully about repairs in developing the F-150.

"As soon as we publicly announced the vehicle, NADA was the perfect place to talk to dealers about the investment in their facilities and training so they're ready to go," Fields said.

Ford's display included new machinery, tools and other gear that dealers with body shops will need to repair the truck.

Ford announced a 20 percent rebate on the estimated $30,000 to $50,000 investment that will be required in tools. And it had a platoon of experts from Ford's Rotunda tools unit and from suppliers on hand to answer questions.

Ford collision repair engineers worked alongside Ford's product engineers throughout the development process to trim repair labor costs, Farley said. Those savings could help offset an increase in parts costs, since aluminum is more expensive than steel.

"We worked with insurance partners to find ways of repairing the vehicles that will save labor," says Paul Massie, Ford collision marketing manager. "We're still working on those things."

The stakes of customer acceptance to the aluminum makeover are huge for the company and its dealers. The F-150 is Ford's best-selling vehicle by far and crucial to Ford's profits.

Farley: Cutting labor costs

For all of 2013, Ford reported net income of $7.2 billion, up from $5.7 billion in 2012. The company already has warned that profits are likely to drop in 2014, in part because of a heavy launch schedule, which includes the F-150 and another company cornerstone, the Mustang.

Dealers and operators of independent collision shops will have other opportunities to see the aluminum F-150. It will appear at the International Autobody Congress & Exposition show July 31-Aug. 2 in Detroit; the 2014 Northeast Automotive Services Show at the Meadowlands in New Jersey March 21-23; and the SEMA show in Las Vegas Nov. 4-7.

Randall Reed, owner of World Class Automotive Group, a Dallas-based group that owns six Ford stores, said he already had done a lot of research on the aluminum truck before he came to New Orleans. But seeing the color-coded body-in-white helped bring it home to him.

"That really opened our eyes," he said. "It will also be a lot more efficient and easier to repair than steel."

You can reach Bradford Wernle at bwernle@crain.com.


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