Ford engineered the all-new 2015 F-150 to be more capable, more fuel-efficient, and lighter — to the tune of 700 pounds — than the outgoing model thanks to the extensive use of aluminum in its body. But the new generation of the truck could also be more expensive to own, with the higher cost of ownership stemming from higher body shop and insurance costs resulting from the lightweight sheetmetal, according to a Bloomberg report.
The report states that fewer than 10 percent of independent repair shops in the U.S. are certified to work with most aluminum auto-body parts, since they require the use of different tools such as wire brushes and parts for grinders and sanders as compared to steel-working tools, which — when used on aluminum — could cause corrosion. Shops will also need to learn how to work with aluminum — specifically, how it bends back after impact. To that end, Ford claims that the aluminum body of the new F-Series will be more resistant to dents and dings, while citing data showing that 90 percent of its customers live within two hours of a capable repair shop, and 80 percent are within 30 minutes.
Although the new F-150 won’t be the first vehicle to use aluminum, as many Audis, Land Rovers, and other brands having already implemented the light material, it will become the most voluminous in terms of sales thanks to the fact that the F-Series has been America’s best-selling vehicle by a wide margin for many years. Given the major advances seen in the new truck, that trend is unlikely to change.
In fact, the biggest threat to the continued reign of the F-Series is higher insurance rates, which Ford predicts will jump 10 percent due to the use of aluminum. The automaker, however, notes that buyers will likely accept the added cost in exchange for better fuel economy and capability, such as towing and payload — neither of which have been officially unveiled by Ford. But it’s important to note that a by-product of higher insurance rates is a drop in residual value, itself a result of potentially higher repair costs.
A Ford representative told Motor Trend that the new F-150 was designed “to be easily repairable in the event of an accident”, and that “Ford dealers and independent repair facilities will be qualified to handle repairs”. And to dissuade cost-related concerns, Ford stated that it expects “repair and insurance costs to be competitive with other trucks in the segment.”
The Motrolix Take
This is most certainly an interesting situation. Before we mention anything else, let’s remember that Ford could be planning to concurrently produce the all-new 13th-gen model with the current 12th-generation for several months, allowing those who don’t want to “risk” with aluminum to purchase the current steel-bodied truck. But once concurrent production ends, we believe that everything else will literally solve itself as consumers begin to purchase the new F-150 by the boatload, and as the rest of the industry catches up and begins to extensively rely on aluminum in their vehicles.
At that point, working with aluminum will become the new standard for body shops, and cars utilizing the material will become the new norm. So, tangibly, owners might feel a slight increase in insurance premiums for the first few months or perhaps year(s) of ownership, and then — once aluminum becomes the steel across the industry — everything will begin to return back to normal. But those owners who will be impacted initially will have the ability to drive what is arguably the best and most technologically-advanced pickup truck in the world. And doesn’t that count for something?