By on December 12, 2013

2015-Ford-F-150-Aluminum-Body-rear-mule

We received a note from Alcoa, a supplier of aluminum, regarding our story on delays with the next Ford F-150. Alcoa’s Monica Orbe sent us this note

While details of future programs and timelines should come from automotive OEMs themselves – regardless of the platform — we can say that Alcoa does not have any issues with its automotive production lines. It is important to note that aluminum is the second most used material to build cars today. Automakers have successfully used Alcoa materials to produce aluminum-intensive vehicles since the mid 1990s.

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55 Comments on “Alcoa Responds To The Aluminum F-150 Story...”


  • avatar

    Weird that they felt a need to memo it like that. It’s not like anyone is accusing Alcoa of supplying Ford with substandard aluminum (well, maybe some really crazy fans do, but that’s to be expected).

    • 0 avatar
      Sigivald

      From the linked TTAC story this is responding to: “our source told us that the aluminum (said to be an alloy) supplied by Alcoa and other Tier 2 suppliers did not meet internal forming requirements for the “tooling tryout” phase of pre-production” and “According to our source, Alcoa and other aluminum suppliers will be under the gun to deliver the proper materials on time and not drag the delays out any further”

      That source seems to be quite literally accusing Alcoa (and others) of supplying substandard (i.e., wrong alloy) aluminum.

      It might be that what is really meant is that Ford was specifying the wrong alloy, perhaps, but it READS most obviously as an accusation at the suppliers.

      • 0 avatar
        jz78817

        or maybe the “source” wasn’t completely correct. or, didn’t have a clue in the first place.

        • 0 avatar
          Wheeljack

          Or maybe you have no idea what you are talking about. Blaming the supplier is SOP in this town.

          • 0 avatar
            jz78817

            ooh, looks like I have a new “fan.” I know as much about this situation as the rest of us do. Which is to say, nothing. We have an unnamed “source” of unknown origin, and a mealy-mouth say-nothing response from a supplier.

            tempest in a teapot until someone comes up with something more concrete.

      • 0 avatar
        Detroit-X

        Remember that recent fluff-story of a top Ford exec in charge of the F150 recently? Where is this Golden Boy now? Stuff like this happens all the time. It’s usually goes something like:
        1. Engineers/experts warn execs problems will happen…
        2. Execs ignore the engineers/experts…
        3. The warned event happens…
        4. Engineers/experts say “I told you so” …

      • 0 avatar
        LeMansteve

        The alloy could be completely new to Alcoa and/or whatever Tier 2 suppliers in the picture.

        At the tier 2 level I once managed the launch of 15 Ford programs that were delayed significantly due to unforseen issues with a new material. Our customer told us to change to a new material they sourced for us. It was much lower cost and was different in almost every way – country of origin (language barriers), processing, performance, dimensional stability, environmental considerations, final assembly and customer testing, etc etc you name it.

        Problem was, our Tier 1 customer committed to timing without anticipating half of these issues. Implementation was on a rush schedule and timing was not met. I even think we missed 1 or 2 TT builds in there somewhere. Some changes were even cancelled because the delayed launch dates for existing programs were getting mighty close to the end of the program.

  • avatar
    mars3941

    Ford, if it ain’t broke don’t fix it. Why would you mess with or experiment with your biggest profit vehicle. You can add more aluminum to lighten the truck but that’s should be all to it.

    • 0 avatar
      jmo

      “Why would you mess with or experiment with your biggest profit vehicle.”

      Said Mike Lazaridis former CEO of Blackberry.

      • 0 avatar
        Sigivald

        Likewise, why bother to start making reliable, small, fuel efficient vehicles in 1972? All the money’s in full-size cars with big V8s!

        How’d that work out for the domestic auto industry, again…?

        (The way to keep your big profit centers as big profit centers is to keep them competitive.

        And that means taking risks, because you can’t improve without risk.)

      • 0 avatar
        Ron

        Ha!

    • 0 avatar
      APaGttH

      It seems Interstate Bakeries took the same approach with Twinkies et al. Ehhh, why reduce transfats, or otherwise make a shred of effort to make it a tad better for you (its still a treat) or boost profits with “hidden” inflation (e.g. make the serving size smaller) like basically all of our competitors.

      • 0 avatar
        bball40dtw

        Interstate Bakeries also didn’t create new products, diversify, invest in infastructure, understand their customer, or take their competition seriously. That company had such terrible management that they spent more time in bankruptcy than out of it since 2004.

        • 0 avatar
          Lorenzo

          Interstate Bakeries was pawned by several venture capital companies and loaded down with debt, deferred its capital investment, and suffered frequent management shakeups.

          The venture capital group that ran it right up to dissolution bought it out of bankruptcy, but two other venture groups refused to write down any part of the debt they held, the buyer was unable to break even under the debt load and was forced to liquidate the company.

      • 0 avatar
        LeMansteve

        I read that three times as Interstate Batteries…!

        • 0 avatar
          bball40dtw

          That’s probably a more common brand on a car site. Interstate Battery Systems of America, Inc has a much better finacial track record than Interstate Bakeries.

          • 0 avatar
            highdesertcat

            Interstate Battery Systems makes the best batteries in our market.

            They may cost more than the others but they last much longer because they are better engineered, have thinner casings and are fresher when you buy them.

            I’m a fan!

          • 0 avatar
            golden2husky

            I agree with you. My buddy only installs Interstate with his generator installations. The toaster testers don’t agree however IIRC..

          • 0 avatar
            Wheeljack

            You guys do know that JCI (Johnson Controls Inc.) makes Interstate’s automotive batteries, right?

            JCI also makes DieHard, Motorcraft, and the excellent, fairly priced Costco “house brand” batteries just to name a few.

            While there are differences in quality in some of the brands depending on what the customer wants, they aren’t THAT different. Interstate charges a premium price, and the Costco battery is nearly it’s equal for a lot less. You can guess which one I buy.

            Incidentally, when I worked for Ford way back when, a battery engineer once told me that Ford specified the highest quality batteries from JCI that they made. Considering the OEM battery on my Dad’s 1996 Explorer lasted all the way to 2010, I’d say I believe him.

          • 0 avatar
            bball40dtw

            Yes, Interstate markets and sells batteries made by Johnson Controls. I have no idea the differences between batteries. I know more about snack cakes than batteries.

          • 0 avatar
            highdesertcat

            Wheeljack, I’ve gone through a lot of batteries over 6 decades, and that included Exide, Gould, Varta, Yuasa, Sears/Diehard, Autozone, Wal-Mart, Champion, etc etc etc.

            Regardless of who makes them, and for which brand, every Interstate battery I have bought has lasted me far longer than advertised.

            I, too, am a lifetime Business member of Costco, and Sam’s Club. I have bought their batteries as well. I was not impressed.

            The worst batteries for me were Autozone and Diehard. They died quick and they died hard.

            The best ones: Interstate.

            I don’t sell Interstate and they’re not paying me to write this, but I go out of my way to buy Interstate.

            Hey, any battery brand will do if it fits, but I don’t want to dick around replacing a battery, especially if I am going to sell or trade the car. Let the new owner buy the next battery.

            The tricky part comes if I have to replace the battery in my wife’s Grand Cherokee before we trade it off.

            That is an H6-sized AGM, and I don’t think that Interstate makes one that does not require venting. I’ve been to their site and have come up empty — no match found.

          • 0 avatar
            Ion

            The reason Interstates last so long is they underrate their CCAs. The 98 had an interstate that the previous owner had put in and when it needed replacing I couldn’t find a local interstate dealer. I did my research and found out that interstate, diehard, and motorcraft all have the same parent company. Ironically I couldn’t get a motorcraft either so I went with the Diehard Gold.

    • 0 avatar

      Federal requirements and competition are a PIA.

      In this case it is indeed both. GM is going Al and there are increased fuel economy standards for trucks. Weight reduction! And you can’t just make the truck smaller and stay competitive.

  • avatar
    Lou_BC

    To remain #1, you have to keep pushing design to keep ahead of the competition.
    I never thought that the EB3.5 would turn out to be Ford’s #1 engine choice in the F150. It has had teething problems but not enough to kill Ford’s lead.
    GMC took a conservative status quo approach with the 2014 trucks and sales aren’t gaining on Ford.

    No one is going to admit to a problem on a pre-production vehicle.
    $h!t – they try not to admit to anything on a production vehicle unless forced to.

    • 0 avatar
      highdesertcat

      “I never thought that the EB3.5 would turn out to be Ford’s #1 engine choice in the F150″

      That’s only because CAFE mandates are forcing Ford to push the EB V6 on the buying public.

      Every real truck man I know will opt for a V8, no matter the brand, and gas mileage/fuel economy be damned.

      I dread the day that Toyota is forced to drop the 5.7L in the Tundra and Sequoia because of CAFE.

  • avatar
    pragmatist

    What strikes me is that they don’t really counter the TTAC account. Just a bit of weasel wording and hand waving (sort of like the NSA ‘denials ‘)

    When dealing with a PR professional, look at the details.

    • 0 avatar
      highdesertcat

      Often what is not said tells the backside of the story.

      And often what is addressed is an obfuscation to educate the public with disinformation or misinformation.

      In time, the real story will come out, and I believe it will include an element that will say that this aluminum alloy was harder to work with in automated machinery than first anticipated.

      But saving weight is a key variable for the F150 so I would like to see Ford come out with an all-aluminum V8 engine like the Tundra 5.7L to reduce the weight over the front wheels.

      • 0 avatar
        Loser

        I’m pretty sure the 5.0 is all-aluminum but I have been wrong before.

        • 0 avatar
          jz78817

          it is, in both Mustang and F-150 trims. The preceding 3-valve 4.6 was all aluminum in the Mustang, and Al head/Fe block in the trucks. The Cyclone V6 is all aluminum as well in all applications, car and truck.

          no clue what highdesertcat is talking about.

          • 0 avatar
            MK

            I’m sure it was just fogging over of the toyota glasses with the cold or something. :)

          • 0 avatar
            Wheeljack

            He’s saying that: “Toyota is better….just because, well…because they just are”

            Personally in a truck I’d rather have an iron engine block. More weight over the front wheels = better traction when in 4WD. Saving 75 lbs in a truck is like throwing a deck chair off the Titanic.

          • 0 avatar
            jz78817

            “More weight over the front wheels = better traction when in 4WD.”

            drivel. if you’re worried about traction/grip, spend a couple hundred bucks on proper tires instead of spending your vehicle’s life lugging around unnecessary weight.

          • 0 avatar
            Wheeljack

            They’re not talking about the V-6. They are talking about the COYOTE V-8. Talk about drivel. Get your facts straight.

          • 0 avatar
            highdesertcat

            “no clue what highdesertcat is talking about”

            jz78817, I should have taken the time to expound. I was in a hurry. I was jobbing.

            What I should have included was that my last 2006 F150 had the 5.4 in it and as far as power to weight ratio it is no match for the lighter all-aluminum 32-valve DOHC 5.7L V8 in my current 2011 Tundra SR5 DC. That is one potent power plant for such small displacement.

            The Ford 5.0 is indeed all-aluminum but it is not in the same class as the Tundra 5.7L.

            From where I sit in the cab, and basing my opinion on my own experience with the Silverado 350 and F150 5.4 I owned for years, the Tundra 5.7 is like a Rolex on wheels, slicker than whale snot on ice.

            So if I am biased, it is only because I have owned the best from GM and Ford before. And now I drive Tundra 5.7 because it is even better.

            It will be a sad day if my next new truck is not available with that magnificent Tundra 5.7L. But the day is coming that Tundra will have to drop the 5.7 in order to meet CAFE mandates.

            My guess is MY2016. So at the end of next year I’ll be looking to trade it off.

          • 0 avatar
            jz78817

            “What I should have included was that my last 2006 F150 had the 5.4 in it and as far as power to weight ratio it is no match for the lighter all-aluminum 32-valve DOHC 5.7L V8 in my current 2011 Tundra SR5 DC. That is one potent power plant for such small displacement.”

            Wow; bringing up an obsolete engine. By the way, your “potent, small displacement” Toyota V8 is out-powered by the (also 5.7 liter) pushrod V8 in the Ram trucks.

            “The Ford 5.0 is indeed all-aluminum but it is not in the same class as the Tundra 5.7L.”

            If the class is “Toyota engines,” then I guess you might be correct.

    • 0 avatar
      SCE to AUX

      “…we can say that Alcoa does not have any issues with its automotive production lines”.

      The 2015 F-150 is not a production item yet, so they’re right. But I still suspect there may be shared fault in this, and many people are rending their clothes in an effort to get it fixed.

    • 0 avatar
      Wheeljack

      I had many years of driving in heavy snow and ice in my 1976 F-150 4×4 with excellent Michelin XC All Terrain tires that says its not drivel. I would always leave the house with the hubs locked in 2WD. If the truck started to get squirrely either taking off or slowing down, a quick flick of the wrist into 4×4 would straighten her right out. 800 lbs of FE big block and a part-time 4wd system that locked both axles at the same speed ensured that I never lost traction.

      • 0 avatar
        jz78817

        This has to be the biggest load of horseshit I’ve read today.

        • 0 avatar
          Wheeljack

          Piss off. Apparently you’ve only driven modern trucks with “on-demand” AWD style transfer cases that have an interaxle differential. They behave differently than old-school part time t-cases.

        • 0 avatar
          Onus

          +1

          To the guy above.
          All the pickups still only come with a part time transfer case. Name one that has a center differential. You wont find it because there isn’t one.

          • 0 avatar
            jz78817

            my current pickup is a part-time 4×4, so was the Dakota I had several years ago, and the Ram 2500 I had before that. I know how they drive. You’re ascribing your truck’s performance in low-grip situations to the engine material and hand-waving away the 4 wheel drive and snow-worthy tires.

  • avatar
    Z71_Silvy

    Awesome. Ford, who has very little experience in aluminium (and the experience they do have, they can’t keep the paint from bubbling—ala Mustang) and now they decide that the next F-150 has to use extensive aluminium.

    You know Ford…rather than making the F-Juan-Fiddy basically the F-150 and F-250 in the same truck, why not make an actual half-ton truck with actual half-ton capability and actual half-ton size?

    You clearly have no idea how to use aluminium….just stick to what you think you know.

    • 0 avatar
      Wheeljack

      The F-150 has had an aluminum hood for some time now, the Panther cars had aluminum hoods for years…heck I think the Mk. VIII had an aluminum hood if memory serves. On top of that, it’s not like the OE forges out alone on this stuff – they always get assistance from the supplier if they don;t have in-house expertise.

      • 0 avatar
        Loser

        Wheeljack, don’t cloud his irrational ramblings with facts.

      • 0 avatar
        Z71_Silvy

        And Ford has had issues for some time now with the aluminum and corrosion and paint peeling. Even as recent as the current Mustangs.

        They don’t have a clue as to what they are doing with aluminum. And now it’s already dogging their most important model. How stupid can they be?

        They should have went with the plastic panels to save weight like GM was doing 20 years ago. No corrosion issues, no rust, no dents, etc.

        Once again, Ford takes many steps backwards

  • avatar
    chicagoland

    Well, I look at TTAC as car entertainment site. Since this ‘scoop’ was not concurred by ‘legit’ news sources, I see it as another ‘tabloid car news’ story.

  • avatar
    Scott_314

    Aluminum is simply an awesome material… I am an engineer so maybe a geek but aluminum has 70 years of history as a preferred advanced material and there’s plenty of expertise out there. Get yourself a chunk of aluminum just to own and admire, I say (seriously).

    So I could see some problems popping up with tooling, but not fundamental problems with the material. Ford is making a bold move, in my books a good one, and they should and will get some accolades for it.

    Besides now that aerospace is moving to composites (which are a long way off for major components of mass market vehicles), the auto industry might be able to lock in reasonable commodity prices.

  • avatar
    Felix Hoenikker

    For strenght and heat resistance, I choose Inconel 600. I also keep a chunk at home just to admire.

  • avatar
    Larry P2

    This conversation is hilarious. I have completely restored three NA Miatas, which come with aluminum hoods and trunk lids. All body work and paint was done by the guy working out of his modified garage down the street, with mostly standard hand tools.

    He reports that repairing aluminum is really not much different than working on steel parts. He would die and go to heaven with the robots and controlled environments employed by Ford.

    • 0 avatar
      JuniperBug

      Only NCs have aluminum trunk lids. Regular steel on NA and NB. I put the magnet which indicates which run group I’m in on the track on my 99′s trunk lid, as do the other NAs and NBs I see there. Also, I’m not sure you can claim that you “completely restored” the Miatas if someone else did all body and paint work; what does that leave you to restore?

      I’m really not sure how the opinion of one guy who paints some parts as a hobby negates what everyone else says. If his idea of “repairing” is some bondo and paint, then sure, but anyone who’s ever seen how aluminum bends, or tried to weld it, knows that it’s much more difficult to work with than steel.


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