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News & Press: Extrusion Applications News

Aluminum F-150 proves less costly to repair than its previous steel version

Thursday, May 23, 2019  
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According to Automotive News, overall collision losses for Ford's aluminum-bodied F-150 is in line with steel pickups.

Bob Tomes was among the Ford Motor Co. dealers who sank tens of thousands of dollars into new equipment and training to repair the automaker's aluminum F-150 pickup when it debuted in late 2014.

Mother Nature showed him that it was the right call.

Back-to-back Texas hailstorms in the spring of 2017 filled his eponymous dealership's service bays in McKinney with dented and damaged pickups. But the F-150's modular architecture and extensive training given to his nine certified technicians resulted in speedy repairs that cost as much as $2,000 less than similarly damaged steel-bodied vehicles, Tomes said.

"We were called upon to make that investment, and you have to step up," Tomes told Automotive News last week. "I think we're very pleased with how it turned out."

So is Ford, whose big bet on aluminum for its hugely profitable F-series franchise prompted persistent questions — and relentless attacks from rivals — about whether the pickup would cost more to repair and insure. But insurance data shows that an extraordinary effort to train dealers, educate insurers and design the vehicle to be as repair-friendly as possible helped make it ultimately cheaper to fix and replace than the previous generation, a goal to which Ford engineers aspired from the project's inception.

"It was our moonshot," Dave Johnson, Ford's global director of service engineering operations, said in an interview. "We wanted them to be insurable on par with a steel F-150."

When the pickup was introduced, insurers predicted that costs would hold steady unless claims data indicated a need for an adjustment.

"Given the fact it was aluminum-intensive, and prior aluminum vehicles indicated collision claim severities increased, there was concern the same would occur with the F-150," Matt Moore, senior vice president of the Highway Loss Data Institute, told Automotive News. "Simply put, when we look at the overall losses relative to the other pickup trucks, there's not a change, which was not consistent with expectations."

Modular architecture
Ford officials said that, from the earliest meetings around the F-150's aluminum-heavy redesign, they focused on engineering it to be as repair-friendly as possible with a new, modular architecture.

The front apron tubes, for example, were pulled out farther for easier access. Repairing them on the previous-generation F-150 involved a time-consuming teardown of the vehicle's A-pillar and removal of the instrument panel.

The Highway Loss Data Institute also cited changes to the front fenders that cut replacement time by six or seven hours. Read more...