Editor's note: An earlier version of the article incorrectly stated what company planned to re-open part of a mill in Illinois. That company is U.S. Steel.
The best-selling vehicle in the U.S., the Ford F series, may fare better under President Donald Trump's new metal tariffs than most of its competitors, thanks to Ford Motor Co.'s decision to change the F-150 pickup's body from steel to aluminum.
The F-150's body is made of military-grade aluminum alloy sourced mostly from the U.S. and tariff-exempt Canada. Even if domestic aluminum prices rise as expected, the impact on Ford could be blunted by the amount of aluminum it reuses, as well as the fact that Trump's aluminum tariff is lower than that on steel.
When Ford switched to aluminum in 2014, it created a recycling system that separates four grades of aluminum scrap used to stamp F-150 body parts and returns it to suppliers to re-form. Ford last week said it recycles 20 million pounds of aluminum per month, enough to build more than 37,000 pickup bodies.
That means roughly half of Ford's monthly F-series sales come from reused aluminum. And it has expanded that recycling to other high-cost vehicles such as the Expedition and Lincoln Navigator, which have switched to aluminum bodies.
Michelle Krebs, executive analyst with Autotrader, cautioned that the savings Ford may get from the F-150 may be offset by losses on other vehicles.
"You can't really look product by product," she said. "You have to look at what it's going to do to all prices. We anticipate prices will probably rise."
The F-150 remains critically important to Ford. The pickup accounts for a disproportionate amount of the company's profits compared with other vehicles, and any change in its margins could significantly affect Ford's ability to fund other parts of its business.
The aluminum Ford uses to build the F-150 comes mainly from two U.S. suppliers: Novelis and Arconic. Ford said 98 percent of its aluminum comes from the U.S., as does 95 percent of its steel.
Arconic supplies virtually all of its aluminum from plants in Iowa, Tennessee, Pennsylvania and Texas.
It's unclear where Novelis gets aluminum for the F-150, but the company gets roughly one-third of its aluminum from Canada, while the rest comes from the U.S., Steve Fisher, the company's CEO, said last week on CNBC.
Fisher and Novelis have come out against the tariffs, while U.S. Steel last week said it would reopen part of a mill in Illinois as a result of the president's action.
Ford also has opposed the tariffs, saying the decision and resulting increase in domestic prices could "harm the competitiveness of American manufacturers."
Kristin Dziczek, director of the industry, labor and economics group at the Center for Automotive Research, said it's unclear whether the F-150's aluminum body will be a significant advantage for Ford. She warned there could be negative implications for the broader auto industry.
"There's a number of concerns," she said. "There's going to be increased price, and we're already seeing softening in prices of new vehicles. We don't have a lot of pricing power in this market right now."