If the aluminum-bodied vehicles on the road today are an accurate gauge, the 2015 Ford F-150 probably will be more expensive to repair than its steel-bodied predecessor.
Body shop owners say aluminum repair parts are more expensive than steel parts. And because it often takes longer to repair an aluminum body, the labor costs usually are higher.
That has been the experience of a suburban Detroit chain of high-end body shops that repair aluminum Mercedes-Benz, Porsche and BMW vehicles and a New York shop that handles Jaguar and Land Rover aluminum vehicles.
But Ford says that situation will change. At the National Automobile Dealers Association convention, the company told dealers the redesigned F-150 would not be more expensive to repair than the current model.
Although aluminum repair parts cost more, Ford said, they are designed to be installed quickly and easily, which would reduce labor.
Insurance companies will have a lot of say about what the repairs will cost.
"The cost to repair depends on the insurance company," said Larry Smith, owner of Autometric Collision Inc. in suburban Detroit. "The good insurance companies will listen to us and pay attention to the manufacturer's guidelines. The bad ones will discount what the manufacturers say."
For instance, if a piece of the metal body is bent more than a few millimeters, a manufacturer may require a replacement, while an insurance company would pressure the body shop for a cheaper fix by straightening it, said Smith, whose company has nine shops in the Detroit area.