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Ford F-150 pickup aluminum body needs special tools and may cost more to insure

Ford's new F-150 pickup uses high strength steel in the frame, and aluminum alloy body panels to save 700 pounds.
Ford's new F-150 pickup uses high strength steel in the frame, and aluminum alloy body panels to save 700 pounds.
Ford Motor Company

Ford Motor Company’s auto show press release says, "From nose to tailgate the 2015 F-150 is a re-designed truck right down to its signature feature – an all-new, fully boxed ladder frame made of high-strength steel, and for the first time, high-strength, military-grade, aluminum alloys are used throughout the F-150 body.”

These alloys, already used in aerospace, commercial transportation and other industries, make the new truck’s body lighter, stronger and, according to Ford, more resistant to dents.

Ford claims the extensive use of aluminum in the new F-150 makes it up to 700 pounds lighter, which Ford says will help the truck tow and haul more, accelerate and stop faster, and operate more efficiently.

Cost of insurance
Ford faces a challenge with insurance companies that might be leery of the potential for more costly repairs to the new F-150s aluminum alloy body panels.

According to Ford, insurance companies might charge as much as ten percent more to insure the 2015 F-150. A seven hundred pound weight reduction, however, is a game changer. Ford hopes F-150 buyers will consider higher insurance premiums to be an acceptable tradeoff for a 700 pound weight reduction.

Aluminum repair issues
According to a Bloomberg estimate, few body shops in the U.S. are equipped and have technicians trained to work with aluminum body parts.

To help dealers cope with the aluminum-bodied F-150, Ford is offering dealerships a hefty discount on special aluminum body repair equipment. Ford will also provide specialized body shop technician training.

When welding aluminum, the higher thermal conductivity and low melting point of aluminum alloy body panels can easily lead to burn-through unless welders follow correct procedures. At this year’s North American International Auto Show in Detroit, Ford displayed some of the new equipment dealers will need to work with aluminum body panels, including special gas-metal arc welding equipment and systems to deal with aluminum dust.

Rust proof truck?
Will the new aluminum-bodied F-150 be rust proof? While aluminum does not rust, it can oxidize or corrode. Cast aluminum wheels, for example, will corrode if the protective clear coat wears away and exposes bare aluminum to the air and road salt. The only totally rust-proof car would be something like the DeLorean, which had a body made of stainless steel, some plastic-bodied Saturn models and of course, fiberglass-bodied Corvettes.

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