Building a car out of aluminum has a number of benefits - the lighter weight allows the vehicle to be more agile, more fuel efficient, make better use of its power and be more resistant to dings and dents. The downside to the advanced construction, though, is that repairs are both challenging and expensive. That's troubling for the new, aluminum-bodied Ford F-150, because it's kind of made a name for itself as a rugged, durable work vehicle.

How will the legions of Ford buyers cope when it comes time to insure and repair their new trucks? Well, according to Ford, it's expecting a ten-percent jump in insurance costs for the aluminum-bodied F-150, although Ford's truck marketing manager, Doug Scott, was quick to point out that the F-150 is generally cheaper to insure than its competition from Ram and General Motors. "At the end of the day, that's sort of a wash," Scott told Automotive News at last week's Detroit Auto Show. "We've spent a lot of time and feel very comfortable that that's not going to be an inhibitor."

The other issue facing Ford is the distinct lack of body shops that have the training or equipment to repair aluminum-bodied vehicles. AN cites an estimate from the Automotive Service Association claiming that of the 30,000 independent body shops in the US, less than 10 percent are able to work on aluminum.

Aluminum repairs demand their own set of tools, and you generally can't mix and match tools for aluminum and steel. The lightweight metal is also difficult to form, as Ford found out. These two factors, combined with the limited number of aluminum-bodied vehicles on the road, has kept shops from investing in the tools and training to work with the metal. Ford doesn't seem concerned, though.

"We've just been waiting for the reveal to unveil a certification process for dealer-owned body shops and the independent channel," Scott told AN. While it may still be some time before that process is implemented, early adopters won't be left out in the cold - Ford estimates that 90 percent of F-150 customers live within two hours of a certified repair facility, while 80 percent are within half an hour.

"Ford is going to have to execute, and building at that volume in aluminum has never been done in the history of the automobile business. And there are reasons it hasn't been don: It's expensive, and it's complicated and it's difficult to work with," said Mike Jackson, the CEO of AutoNation. That said, Ford seemingly has its ducks in a row on the repair end of the aluminum game. Whether this gamble will pan out in the grand scheme, though, remains to be seen.


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  • 113 Comments
      That Guy
      • 11 Months Ago
      This is the single stupidest thing Ford has done in a very long time. All this for a chest thumping press release to try and keep people interested in their lackluster, mediocre trucks. This aluminum experiment has already proven to be a huge mistake. Ford is in way over their head.
        m_2012
        • 11 Months Ago
        @That Guy
        You do realize that almost every other part of transportation (planes, trains, tanks, boats, ATV's, off road vehicles, etc) have been using aluminum for decades, right? The only reason the automotive sector hasnt is because of the bean counters. Good for Ford for stepping ahead and shedding the cheapness that has crippled the whole automotive sector. I bet you wont ever buy a car with an aluminum engine? Or fly in an aluminum plane? Or have our troops in aluminum vehicles? Aluminum cans, pbbt...
        Oscar
        • 11 Months Ago
        @That Guy
        I guess if it were up to idiot trolls like you, the bar would never be raised.
        Michael Star
        • 11 Months Ago
        @That Guy
        You call them lackluster, but aren't they the number 1 selling truck?
        canuckcharlie
        • 11 Months Ago
        @That Guy
        Don\'t be \'That Guy\'
          EXP Jawa
          • 11 Months Ago
          @canuckcharlie
          He already is "That Guy". And he seems to enjoy it. The rest of us just laugh...
        • 11 Months Ago
        @That Guy
        [blocked]
      Jake
      • 11 Months Ago
      Some times you have to get out in front and lead the way and the rest will follow. Ford has a long history of doing this. Where would GM be without Ford plowing a path for them to follow?
        AcidTonic
        • 11 Months Ago
        @Jake
        Except Mitsubishi has been selling cars with Aluminum body panels, quarter panels, and even an aluminum roof since around 2003 in America. But when Ford does it (loudly like they do everything) people act like it's some new era or something.
          Dean Hammond
          • 11 Months Ago
          @AcidTonic
          who is Mitsubishi?..........
          Jake
          • 11 Months Ago
          @AcidTonic
          Do they do it on 700,000 units a year? This is mass production.
          Dean Hammond
          • 11 Months Ago
          @AcidTonic
          no Jake...it was a total of around 4, yes....4...........
      Greg Aryous
      • 11 Months Ago
      This is a non issue...! Body shops just need to stay current with technology... It's the cost of Being In Business When computer controls were added to cars did repair shops not buy a computer. .. Same issue with aluminum ... Get in the game or you will soon be out if business... It's that simple. GM?
        • 11 Months Ago
        @Greg Aryous
        [blocked]
        Jamie Elmhirst
        • 11 Months Ago
        @Greg Aryous
        The issue of concern isn't proximity of qualified repair shops. That problem will solve itself. The problem is the greater expense to repair aluminium vehicles and what that will to insurance costs. That's not an issue with current technology, its a hard cost issue.
      cgm9999
      • 11 Months Ago
      This whole doomsday scenario that some people are hawking is simply ridiculous. Body shops have always adapted to what car makers produced, always have, always will. Why? Because if they don't, their competitors will. Thus, body shops will flock to up their game for their survival depends on it. "But how will body shops repair these F-150s?" Frankly, this is a red herring argument. In reality, it's not Ford's problem. Better yet, this "problem" gives great incentive to body shops to invest in aluminum specialization and advertise themselves as aluminum specialists, making them unique in the marketplace. Of course, since the vehicle we're on about isn't an Audi A8, but the most popular vehicle in America for decades running, body shops will be incredibly motivated to quickly find a solution since they'll be rewarded for doing so. Over time, with the market demand properly satiated with an increase in aluminum specializing shops, and seeing the gains from using aluminum in vehicles, more and more automakers will be encouraged to implement more aluminum into their vehicles further lowering the cost of aluminum and dropping the small increase in insurance.
        Dean Hammond
        • 11 Months Ago
        @cgm9999
        great post...cudos...
        JIM J
        • 11 Months Ago
        @cgm9999
        Nailed it. It's called Capitalism and CGM you've explained it exactly.
        • 11 Months Ago
        @cgm9999
        [blocked]
      luigi.tony
      • 11 Months Ago
      Why does that have the new Toyota 4-runner grill?
        m_2012
        • 11 Months Ago
        @luigi.tony
        That's because Toyota is good at copying.
      MONTEGOD7SS
      • 11 Months Ago
      If they are doing this for the F-150, I imagine it's only a matter of time before the Mustang and everything else is aluminum. Time for everybody else to step up their game.
      MechE
      • 11 Months Ago
      10% insurance increase seems low. I think it will be closer to 50% higher. Just guessing.
        m_2012
        • 11 Months Ago
        @MechE
        And a very poor one at that. I'm guessing you didn't read the article.
          MechE
          • 11 Months Ago
          @m_2012
          You guessed wrong. "Well, according to Ford, it's expecting a ten-percent jump in insurance costs for the aluminum-bodied F-150" It'll be more, way more.
          ngiotta
          • 11 Months Ago
          @m_2012
          "It'll be more, way more." Source? Are you an economist? An insurance adjuster? Troll?
          MechE
          • 11 Months Ago
          @m_2012
          I guess a troll. I love the truck and commend the weight savings but its pretty obvious the monthly rate hike isnt going to go from, for example, $100 to $110. The source is common sense. The cost of Al repair is much more expensive (more than 10%). Do you really think insurance companies arent going to charge more to cover the difference? The difference between a sedan and coupe of the same exact car is more than that. The difference between a male and female is more than 10%. The difference between a 23yr old and 24 yr old is more. And the companies are merely using their statistics as justification for that.
          cpmanx
          • 11 Months Ago
          @m_2012
          I think it will cost one meeeelion dollars. Just guessing.
      _I_I_II_I_I_
      • 11 Months Ago
      at the risk of overemphasizing this, the benefit of Ford taking the lead on solving the repair infrastructure problem for aluminum will make the world a better place. Flattening this speed bump removes the hurdle for ALL car/truckmakers to produce lighter-weight vehicles.
      scott3
      • 11 Months Ago
      These issues are not trivial to. a truck. If you have a high end car you are used to higher insurance and difficult service repair. Funny how Ford diid not address this at the intro. Also they do not address the curb weight. I took the weight of a 4x4 crew cab 2014 Chevy and Ford and subtracted 700 pounds from the Ford. This leaves the Ford only 283 pounds lighter than the Chevy. So is the additional cost and difficulty of repair worth the weight of one fat friend at. 283 pounds knowing GM still has weight they can cut with no need for expensive materials. Fords plan is built on what ifs. Now brand loyalty will still stand for good sales but Ford has alway lead in the fleet sales because of low cost so we may see this impacted. Now if they were 700 pounds lighter than Chevy then this would be a big deal but 283 pounds and increase price and cost it is far from impressive.
        john96xlt
        • 11 Months Ago
        @scott3
        280 lbs (by your crude estimate) lighter with a MORE DURABLE metal. GM trucks dent if you look at them wrong.
      John
      • 11 Months Ago
      I work for a Ford dealer, on Monday we had already received our F150 repair information so that we can get the needed repair tools. Its really not a bad setup and most of the Aluminum specific stuff can be used on other aluminum bodied vehicles. This will actually save repair costs on older aluminum bodied vehicles as aluminum repairs become more wide spread. That being said, the trucks are actually more sturdy and dent resistant than the previous generation so paint-less dent repair issues (parking lot dings & hail damage) should almost go away on the new F150's.
      scott3
      • 11 Months Ago
      Everyone says in time ? But how much time and how long can Ford give in such a competitive segment? This is a deal if it works it will work great but if it fails it will hurt? I still challenge Ford to come clean on curb weight and show how much lighter than GM they are. It will not even be half of the 700 they are claiming on their own 2014. Will it be worth the cost for less than 300 pounds?
        John
        • 11 Months Ago
        @scott3
        700lb's is huge in a redesign, GM's trucks are built with thin gauge metal (we've repaired quite a few in our body shop) which is why they've been lighter for quite some time. Thin gauge sheet means highly flexible and not that great in ding/small dent situations. As a former GM tech the suspension components also seem less robust than the current F150's suspension which is said to not be getting downsized in order to improve or maintain towing and hauling capability.
        john96xlt
        • 11 Months Ago
        @scott3
        More details about the truck will be released closer to it's release date of the truck itself, that's the same practice with ALL vehicles.
      Indubitably
      • 11 Months Ago
      This is NOT a problem... Shops will just adapt like they've done through automotive history when it comes to new tech.
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