Ford expected to unveil aluminum-bodied F-150

The automaker will switch to a lighter metal for its popular pickup in an effort to improve fuel economy.

By Benzinga Dec 26, 2013 11:10AM

Ford logo on the grill of a Ford F-150 truck © Gene J. Puska/APBy Bruce Kennedy

 

It appears what's been rumored for the past several months is about to come to pass: Ford (F) is preparing to unveil an aluminum-bodied version of its best-selling F-150 pickup next month at the Detroit Auto Show.

 

In July, Motor Trend said Ford was "on a mission to increase fuel economy on its most popular model."

 

And consumers seemed to respond favorably, too. The company's twin turbocharged V-6 EcoBoost engine was so popular with F-150 buyers that about 40 percent of F-150s sold have the fuel-efficient EcoBoost, rather than the V-8.

 

An F-150 with a mostly aluminum body would further help fuel efficiency – reducing the vehicle's overall weight by more than 700 pounds compared with the conventional version. It would also allow the truck to satisfy the federal government's upcoming CAFE (Corporate Average Fuel Economy) standards.

 

"Like alternative drivetrain technology, lightweight materials will be a key component in meeting the fuel economy standards of the future," Karl Brauer, senior analyst at Kelley Blue Book, said in an e-mail to Benzinga. "Ford's use of aluminum in the next F150 foreshadows a widespread trend we'll be seeing across every vehicle segment in the coming years."

 

Bloomberg, meanwhile, reports Ford has asked Alcoa (AA) – which produces high-strength aluminum for battlefield conditions – "to lend some of its military-grade metal for the automaker’s display" at the Detroit Auto Show in January.

 

Ford is taking a large risk by tinkering with its successful F-150 line. Analysts at the research firm IHS Automotive, according to Bloomberg, believe Ford truck plants could be out of action for up to six weeks at a time as the company tweaks its assembly line machinery and retrains personnel to handle the switch-over to aluminum.

 

"This is already the most significant debut at the auto show," Joe Langley, a production analyst for IHS Automotive, said in an interview with Bloomberg. "Everybody's going to be dissecting that thing for a long time, especially since Ford will be taking such a big gamble."

 

Read more from Benzinga:

166Comments
Dec 26, 2013 12:36PM
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Go FORD!


Top company. Smart. Did not take any bail out money either.


GM took bailout money.  Execs still flew private jets.  GM has not repaid anything. Still makes CRAP!


Settles it for me...FORD beats GM!

Dec 26, 2013 12:42PM
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Do the Al body plus the same v6 eco-boost engine in a ranger!


Damn a 300 hp ranger would be fun.



Dec 26, 2013 12:16PM
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Better fuel efficiency and it won't rust like a Chevy!
Dec 26, 2013 1:06PM
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Those contractors that use magnetic signs on the truck doors might be disappointed.
Dec 26, 2013 12:33PM
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Why aren't more cars made with Aluminum?
Dec 26, 2013 1:59PM
Dec 26, 2013 12:24PM
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Maybe they will reach 22 mpg with the ecoboost engine like they originally promised?  For now it's 17-18 mpg.
Dec 26, 2013 12:58PM
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Most of the major US manufacturers are already using some aluminum body panels including GM but it will be interesting to see how well an all aluminum body works out.  However aluminum costs more & that will probably translate into increased vehicle price.
Dec 26, 2013 2:10PM
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Keep in mind the use and the weight versus...

Both metals can be made to be strong, depending on configuration..

But Steel bends, sometimes ripping as opposed to Aluminum cracking or fracturing.

Although aluminum can warp under extreme heat conditions, and lose shape.

Steel is heavier per volume than Aluminum..

Steel rusts, Aluminum corrodes.

As far as cost difference, hard to say? Depends on fabrication and usage. 

Dec 26, 2013 1:48PM
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If you scrap a steel door it is not worth the trip to the scrap yard. A aluminum door is a meal or a party for someone. 
Dec 26, 2013 1:04PM
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Aluminum cost a lot more than steel. Better get much better mileage.
Dec 26, 2013 12:42PM
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the point of a truck getting even 1-2 better mpg is not for the individual truck buyer but the overwhelming fleet sales of pick ups for industries like construction and energy. I am concerned how Ford will make this cost effective being that Aluminium is still more costly than steel
Dec 26, 2013 3:24PM
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Ford needs to bring back small trucks in addition to the F-150. Then they could "really" boost the fuel economy...

Ford needs to sell more than one size truck.

Dec 26, 2013 12:49PM
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smart. 

 

aluminum is very easy to come by.  1/3 the weight of steel. 

 

easy to form so fabrication costs come down too. 

Dec 26, 2013 3:22PM
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Hmmm... Must be a really strong and tough aluminum alloy.  And usually aluminum is more expensive, in the amounts needed to equal the strength of steel. I notice they don't mention how much more this will cost.
Dec 26, 2013 4:56PM
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Smurf100....Ford or Chevy (GM) is coming out with a small truck again....'14 or '15..


If one does, the other is sure to follow, they want to compete against Asian Marketing.

They should have never stopped...IMO.

Dec 26, 2013 1:35PM
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Everybody doesn't use a pick-up as a work truck. I use it for hauling things I need a truck for and not to get stuck in the winter in bad weather. And primarily for pulling a camping trailer, which now gets me 10 mpg when pulling. Probably pretty much any truck. Mine is a 1500 Silverado. For its constant quality problems and lack of honest dealers, I never want to see a Chevy again, and particularly the inside of a dealership. 10 mpg New York to Florida 2000 to 2500 miles is $750-$875 @ 3.50/gal. where I reward nobody but gas companies is unconscionable. Yes, Id like to see Ford to be successful with both their eco V6 engine which seems to not get as good reviews as it originally did, and their use of  aluminum to make it lighter weight and hopefully get better mileage. And after my Silverado fiasco, a 10 year drive train warranty on whatever new truck I buy. Here's hope........
Dec 26, 2013 12:31PM
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If you are buying a full size pickup for whatever reason, why are you worried about fuel mileage?
Dec 26, 2013 6:59PM
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You need to read the whole story it says mostly aluminum body panels not all, these will be the cosmetic panel not the structural panels so strength will not be an issue. However the cost will go up as many of you have stated due to the price difference in steel and aluminum not to mention the cost of repairs at a body shop as aluminum is less forgiving and much harder to repair. Just a thought.
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