Much of the buzz surrounding Ford’s next-generation 2015 F-150 has in been in regards to its aluminum body. The use of aluminum in the pickup’s body and structure helped Ford shed 700 pounds of weight over the outgoing truck, but it may have come at the cost of production difficulties and delays.
Automotive News says the scale of the production requirements for the F-150 have some worried getting things up and running won’t be easy. Aluminum can’t be spot welded in the same technique steel can, so Ford has reverted to using a combination of rivets and industrial adhesives to hold everything together. Dave Sullivan, an analyst with AutoPacific, told AN “nobody’s riveted and glued at this speed yet,” so Ford will be serving as the guinea pig.
While Ford’s president of the America’s, Jon Hinrichs, recently told AN they “really believe in the product and its execution,” he at admitted there is little room for mistakes at the same time. The F-150 is the Blue Oval’s best-selling vehicle, and if they miss a full production day that “means a lot.”
“No one has been given a lot of extra time. We have laid this out hour by hour, day by day. We have all the company’s resources at our disposal. There’s nothing more important than this,” Hinrichs said.
The complex manufacturing process is all in the name of fuel economy, but it will also give the 2015 F-150 a stiffer structure, explains Jay Baron, president of the Center for Automotive Research.
“You will get a more stiff body relative to spot welding. It’s a better body, but it is more complex,” Baron told AN. “Once they get it all debugged, it will be much better quality.”
Ford doesn’t have much time to get its manufacturing processes all figured out. The first customer deliveries are expected to happen before the end of the year, with the truck arriving at dealers in February. If Ford’s manufacturing process proves to be successful and consumers scoop up the aluminum trucks like they hope they will, we have a feeling Ram and General Motors may be the next automakers to follow suite.