Collision shops need separate tools and work areas for aluminum to prevent aluminum dust from getting on steel parts, which causes corrosion.
Ford officials insist that most dealers will still be able to repair routine fender benders. Dealers are not required to join the network.
"We're looking for the guys who are really in the body shop business," said Paul Massie, Ford collision marketing manager, speaking of the prime candidates for the repair network.
The $30,000 to $50,000 amounts to a starter kit for aluminum repair. It includes a rivet gun, MIG (metal inert gas) welder, hand tools, a vacuum cleaner for aluminum dust and curtains or walls to separate the steel and aluminum work areas.
That's necessary because aluminum and steel do not mix. If minute amounts of aluminum dust end up on a steel body part in a paint shop, galvanic corrosion occurs, eventually causing rustlike spots to bleed through the paint.