Published on January 24, 2014

New Ford F-150 work to cost more at body shop

(Ford Motor Co. photo)
This is the new Ford F-150.

By Jake Lingeman, Crain News Service

DETROIT (Jan. 24, 2014) — The 2015 aluminum-clad Ford F-150 pickup that just debuted at the Detroit auto show came in weighing about 700 pounds less than its predecessor.

That means improved performance and better fuel economy, so that's a win-win, right?

Well, fewer than 10 percent of independent repair shops are certified, meet training requirements and have the equipment to work with aluminum body parts, according to Darrell Amberson, chairman of the Automotive Service Association.

Ford estimates that insurance costs will jump 10 percent using the new material, moving the F-150 from the lower end of the adjuster's spectrum to the higher end.

According to a Bloomberg news service report, repair shops need different hand tools for aluminum—such as wire brushes, grinders and sanders—because corrosion can occur when different metals come in contact with each other. Shops will also have to learn how aluminum bends back after an impact.

According to Ford, 90 percent of its customers live within two hours of a capable repair shop, and 80 percent are within 30 minutes.

The vehicle maker uses a high-strength alloy that's thicker than what's used in the current truck, due to aluminum's lower density. The new material will make the truck more dent- and ding-resistant, Ford said.

"The auto makers can force their certified body shops to be able to work with aluminum, but that still could narrow down the choice and the scope of shops that consumers and insurance companies will have," Larry Dominique, the president of ALG — a TRUECar Co. subsidiary that has forecast residual values for almost 50 years—told Bloomberg. "This will work itself out, but it could take 10 years."

Ford will join Audi, Land Rover and Jaguar, among others, in using a majority of the lightweight metal, though Ford produces a lot more pickups than those brands do luxury cars.

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This report appeared on the website of Autoweek magazine, a Detroit-based sister publication of Tire Business.

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