On November 11, the first aluminum-bodied 2015 Ford F-150 truck rolled off the assembly line at Ford Motor Company’s Dearborn, MI truck plant. This vehicle signals a milestone for Ford and a potential game-changer for the auto industry. The new truck features an aluminum body and bed, and weighs in at about 700 pounds lighter than its predecessor. The lighter weight is expected to increase fuel efficiency by 5%-20%, which further extends the automaker’s eco-friendly achievements.
While it is hoped that the new aluminum body will be welcomed by the public and then potentially spread to other models and other manufacturers, it does not come without risks. The initial R&D and cost to build may put the new F-150 at a cost-competitive disadvantage to its rivals, and Ford’s dealer network will need to invest heavily in their shops for equipment and safe facilities to allow dealers to repair the new aluminum materials. In addition, the United Steel Workers (USW) have already sounded an alarm by publicly promoting vehicles made from traditional steel.
Although aluminum has been used in body styling in the past (e.g., Audi A8 and Jaguar XJR), Ford executives and the F-150 design team view this venture as one that could transform the industry. Even chairman Bill Ford has gone on record to quote his great-grandfather, Henry Ford, who said, “The only history worth a tinker’s damn is the history we make today.”
So, as the aluminum F-150s continue to roll off the production line and begin to fill the showroom floors in the new year, only time will tell if the truck will be accepted by the public and whether the rest of the industry will embrace the change.
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