By on December 11, 2013

13-Aluminum-Tile

TTAC’s supplier sources have reported that Ford is facing issues regarding their next-generation F-150 pickup, which is slated to use aluminum extensively.Having previously reported on the F-150′s aluminum body, 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. As a result, Job 1 at the Dearborn Truck Plant, which is the lead plant for the program, will be delayed between 6 to 10 weeks.
Our source claims that the main issue with the aluminum comes in its inability to be properly formed. Aluminum’s “elastic or Young’s modulus” (the materials property to return to its normal shape after hitting it with a die) is roughly 1/3 that of steel. If the material properties are even slightly off, then it completely derail a given project.
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. Ford will have already blown their Memorial Day launch target, with the new F-150 said to be late availability in 2014, with Ford’s Kansas City plant said to be cranking out current generation trucks, which will now feature a frame that is one full gauge thinner on “non-tow” models.
The delay further pressures Ford when it comes time to  launch Dearborn Truck Plant’s body shop.  Since building Aluminum bodies will be new to DTP, pre-production builds will take place at the body shop tooling vendor’s site, and then dropped into Dearborn’s paint shop for Final Assembly.

Ford will then dive headfirst into the MP1 and MP2 cars, which are considered saleable units, leaving them with far less breathing room to iron out the bugs on what is undoubtedly Ford’s most complex and crucial launch this decade. Ford’s gamble on aluminum, which initially looked to be a bold play with lots of potential upside, is now looking like a much riskier bet. And with the F-Series accounting for the vast majority of Ford’s global profits, the Blue Oval literally cannot afford to make a mistake.

 Update: Alcoa responds

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89 Comments on “Exclusive: Next-Generation Ford F-150 Delayed By Nearly Three Months Due To Aluminum Issues...”


  • avatar
    FJ60LandCruiser

    Just send the defective trucks out into the market and let consumers deal with the problems, while Ford denies extensively there is anything wrong. They’ve done it for decades, why stop now?

  • avatar
    Chocolatedeath

    Heed my warning. Ford, Please dont blow this. If you do, I fear you will never recover. The F150 is the ONE vehicle that they cannot afford to f@@k up.Its one thing to have ill painted Lincolns and failing transmissions in Mustangs/Focuses and others. You will not recover. Ford do you hear me. I am a fan of yours and have to deal with jabs from all over TTAC. If this is screwed up I will have to change my name. Not a problem though since I have two IDs.lol

    • 0 avatar
      993cc

      I don’t care much about Ford, and even less about F150s. But I would like to see more aluminum in our vehicles.

      Ford, please don’t do to aluminum what GM did to Diesels.

  • avatar
    el scotto

    Suppliers are not “under the gun”; the are supposed to supply materials built to agreed upon specs. Are you saying stamping machines will be sent to Alcoa plants and then the parts will be sent to an assembly plant? Will Ford skip MP1 and MP2 testing? They shouldn’t but time will tell us more.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    The modulus of aluminum alloys (and steels, for that matter) stays fairly constant no matter how you alloy it. What changes is its yield point, toughness, machinability, and ductility. Apparently, either the material supplier is having trouble getting these properties right, or else Ford specified it incorrectly.

    Forming metal in a die necessarily yields it, but the trick is not having it tear or thin out too much. Consider how difficult it is to produce a deep-drawn aluminum soda can, with a top edge good enough to fasten the lid onto. Having said this, working aluminum is not new, so somebody pushed the technology a little too far for comfort.

    I’ll guess Ford prototyped these parts successfully, but the ‘real’ dies don’t wok quite the same – very scary and expensive, and they may even have to change the alloy or have significant secondary operations to produce good parts.

    This would be a vehicle to avoid in Year 1, because some VIP will be pushing for them to hit a production schedule.

    • 0 avatar
      WaftableTorque

      The future of aluminum in automobiles looks rosy. On Autoline Detroit’s website, guest engineer Sandy Munro was gushing about covetic aluminum, an experimental material that combines aluminum and carbon nanotubes. The cranky old man, who shoots straight from the hip and has a BS detector par excellence (as from past interviews), virtually wetting himself for almost half an hour over what the substance can do to manufacturing.

      http://www.autoline.tv/journal/?tag=covetic-aluminum (about 24 minutes in)

    • 0 avatar

      I’m wondering if it’s too late to use some kind of rolling die instead of traiditional press. But this is a fascinating subject anyhow, and it’s too bad that the pressure of haters abusing news will not let Ford tell us many details.

    • 0 avatar
      rpn453

      “The modulus of aluminum alloys (and steels, for that matter) stays fairly constant no matter how you alloy it. What changes is its yield point, toughness, machinability, and ductility.”

      I was thinking the same thing. I strongly disagree with the way elastic modulus is defined in this article:

      “the materials property to return to its normal shape after hitting it with a die”

      That particular “property” would actually involve a combination of material properties, and depend more on the properties you listed than on the elastic modulus.

      Elastic modulus is simply the stiffness of the material within the elastic range of deformation. Shaping materials with a die goes way beyond the elastic range, into plastic deformation. Elastic modulus is better described by the motion of a spring in response to a non-deforming load.

  • avatar
    BigOlds

    Please consider my offer of editing services!

    First sentence: Use of “throughout” is incorrect. It implies that the Al is within the body panels, rather than the material of construction. “for” body panels would be OK, as would be “throughout the vehicle.”

    Next, I doubt the material failed to meet “being” requirements. Probably an existential concern best left to Nietzsche?

    Need an “s” on the end of “derail”

    I am genuinely sorry if this seems obnoxious, but for a site as good as this one, I think you need to sweat the details.

    • 0 avatar

      Thank you for this. When you get a call from your source at 1 AM and write the story immediately afterwards, things happen.

      • 0 avatar
        BigOlds

        Derek,

        No offense. I am a big fan of your writing. I consider myself a pretty solid writer (having written countless thousands of non-journalistic pages for work), but my work will have plenty of errors until edited. I would tell Jack that if the story warrants your getting called at 1am, then he should be providing proofreading services at 2am. Goose, gander, and all that.

        Keep up the good work

        PS- “derail” still needs an “s” or a “can” in front of it.

  • avatar
    CJinSD

    Ford has standards for panel stamping accuracy? I learn something every day. On the other hand, the article also mentions that they’re making weakened pickups for people that won’t use them as trucks, so my faith in Ford will continue at its previous level. Is the Raptor a tow model? How much less strength do their frames need? Considering how Ford drove the explosion of pickup elephantitis over the past few generations, frames seem like a funny place to suddenly get all Colin Chapman.

  • avatar
    Michael S.

    This sounds like more of a Ford issue than a supply issue. When building tooling for stamping machines. injection molds, etc., one must account for the elastic modulus of the material being used and temperature of the material in production. You can’t take a set of dies designed with the shape retention of steel in mind and use it on aluminum without expecting issues. Much like building an injection mold that has a material injected in at 300 degrees and flash set with liquid nitrogen, you have to build in “corrections” to get the perfect dimensions.

    But you’ll never see Ford come out and say it’s a tooling issue…

  • avatar
    Stuck in DC traffic

    “…will now feature a frame that is one full gauge thinner on “non-tow” models.”

    ‘non-tow’ umm what? I am afraid of this brave new world.

    • 0 avatar
      bumpy ii

      If you order the tow package, you get the thicker frame. No biggie, and there is ample precedent for it.

      • 0 avatar
        Hummer

        Seems like quite an issue, considering before “now” everyone got the same frame, and the tow package could be added to any truck. Now however people will have to watch for certain build codes to avoid.

        This is especially frightening when you add in all the accounts of frames bending on raptors. (Why they use 1/2 frames is beyond me to begin with) If the regular frames bend how the hell will these frames stand up to the average person offroading, or getting into an accident?

        • 0 avatar
          Hummer

          And people wonder why buyers are skipping 1/2 tons for 3/4 tons, this is a great example.

          • 0 avatar
            bball40dtw

            I agree Hummer. Even though I have a number of 1/2 trucks in my fleet, I rarely tow with any of them. If I’m buying a 1/2 ton these days, its a stripped down work truck model with a V6. I don’t want a 1/2 ton towing a Skid Steer everyday, no matter the tow rating. I can see towing a 30′ boat a dozen or so times a year with a 1/2 ton though.

            The 1/2 tons have replaced compact work trucks and the 3/4 tons have replaced full size, 1/2 ton trucks.

            As a business owner that will purchase some trucks in the next year, I hope the F-150 gets delayed and Ford cuts prices even more. My loyalty is to the best deal.

        • 0 avatar
          Dan

          Ford has three frame thicknesses currently.

          0.100″ for the 126″ and 133″ WB, 0.110″ for the standard 145″, 0.150″ for the HD package 145″ and 157″.

          It isn’t an issue now. Why will it become one?

          • 0 avatar

            Makes for a great “revelation” and clicks, that’s why.

          • 0 avatar
            SCE to AUX

            Good question; some context about the actual planned offerings would help.

          • 0 avatar
            bball40dtw

            But this isn’t about switching to a aluminum frame. The body panels are becoming aluminum, not the frame.

          • 0 avatar
            golden2husky

            ….It isn’t an issue now. Why will it become one?….

            Its not an issue at all. Pickups of today are overbuilt for most of the tasks thrown at them. No problem with offering a beefy model but today’s basic truck can handle what yesterday’s heavier duty model did. So in many instances most of that extra capacity goes to waste, or I should say, causes waste. It is the classic American obsession with “bigger is always better”…the same drivel banged into us since we were small kids. Marketing plays to that, especially with truck people.

      • 0 avatar
        Stuck in DC traffic

        Okay, but what does a non-tow frame do to payload capacity? Also buying used will be an issue if your planning on using a pickup …well like a truck and you end up buying the wrong one. Isn’t the point of a full size pick up the ability to tow? Even if you never do it you justify the purchase with the ability should you want it.

        That said my fear of the new world is the acceptance that pick ups are the new sedan and faking it is okay. I suppose that posing as something your are not is the new normal (think online dating – I’m hot and rich, facebook – look at my awesome life, linkedin – it’s easier to lie on my resume, TV – this reality show is totally not scripted) I shouldn’t be surprised this is translated to the auto market.

        OR am I too cynical? The non-tow,2wd, eco boost 4 cyl for fleet mpg numbers to meet government requirements and good press copy?

        • 0 avatar
          bball40dtw

          It shouldn’t be a problem to tow often with a half ton. Even the “non-tow” model will be able to tow some things(boats, small camper, jet skis, utility trailer, etc). If you are going to be towing things that are close to the maximum tow rating, I would suggest sizing up. I got through many years towing skid steers and other equipment with a ’98 Ram 1500. It worked, and saved me money during the recession. However, it was never ideal.

        • 0 avatar
          bumpy ii

          It just means the “non-tow” frame will be rated at, say, 8,000 pounds instead of 11,000 or whatever. This is nothing more than the a perspective flip on the “Heavy Half, 1500HD, etc.” half-ton models with bigger frames and axles.

          • 0 avatar
            Hummer

            Yea but I know what to expect when I buy a non HD 1500, its clearly labeled and holds no surprises.
            Is the nontow going to have a big sticker saying “Light duty”?

            The buyer shouldn’t have to go through the glue box codes to figure out if the truck will work.
            My concern is for the guy who just buys the truck seeing the numbers, he doesn’t pay attention to the things he can’t see.

        • 0 avatar
          Toad

          If you use your vehicle to tow you HAVE to check the towing capacity, period. Assuming that your vehicle is capable of towing whatever you want just because it has a hitch on the back is foolish. Suspension components, engine and transmission cooling, brakes, etc all have limits; those limits on non towing package vehicles are going to drop.

          Bottom line is that the government is requiring better fuel economy numbers, and part of doing that is to reduce weight which means using lighter (and lighter duty) components. There is no magic way to keep high towing capacity AND get the fuel economy increases the EPA is mandating.

          Something has to give, and that something is standard model capabilities will have to drop.

    • 0 avatar
      gtemnykh

      Oh boy I can see the Ram and GM commercials now “Ford uses thinner gauge steel in their frames, are you okay with that?”

      This pursuit of every last mile to the gallon is getting insane. Utility and durability are being sacrificed in masse just to eke out a few % improvement. Improved transmissions and engines? Sure as long as they’re reliable. Low hanging valences on trucks and SUVs, low rolling resistance tires with no grip in the wet? No thanks.

      • 0 avatar
        Toad

        GM and Ram face the same fuel economy issues as Ford and will probably adopt the same solutions (eventually). For that reason they may not want to start pointing out supposed shortcomings they they will end up adopting in the next model cycle.

        Ford is the early adopter but may end up with with a competitive advantage when GM and Ram have to go through the same teething issues.

  • avatar
    raph

    Jumping through hoops to meet the CAFE and EPA requirements and customer expectations for MPGs and content.

    Though gig.

  • avatar
    thelaine

    This has New Coke potential. Maybe we will be able to buy New Ford and Ford Classic.

    • 0 avatar
      Drzhivago138

      What, you don’t remember when the outgoing 2003 model was still available in 2004 as the F-150 Heritage?

      • 0 avatar
        thelaine

        Yes! I do now Dr.z

      • 0 avatar
        Scoutdude

        They also offered the old version F150 along side the 1997 F150 for awhile. I expect the same thing to happen with this introduction. Convert one plant to the new truck and keep the other in production for the first year.

        GM did something similar when they introduced their first all new truck in ages but that was to keep making the crew cab and a few other variation in the old style body for a year.

  • avatar
    Kinosh

    How is this a supplier issue? You spec out the material you want and they deliver. I’m having a very hard time believing that Alcoa can’t deliver the aluminum Ford asked for.

    I’m still very, very worried about how Ford is handling the fact that aluminum doesn’t have an endurance limit and will eventually fatigue.

    Long story short, I wouldn’t touch an aluminum framed truck with a ten-foot pole for atleast 15 years (one full vehicle lifespan) until we see how the first-gens die.

    • 0 avatar
      bumpy ii

      IIRC the aluminum is for the body panels, not the frame itself (although there are plenty of aluminum alloys that could be used for the frame). I’m sure Alcoa delivered what Ford asked for, even if it’s not what Ford *should* have asked for.

    • 0 avatar
      bikegoesbaa

      Most likely Ford and their suppliers worked together to select/develop the material and manufacturing process.

      Working with a supplier who knows their stuff as well as Alcoa does there’s no way that Ford made all the decisions internally and then just sent Alcoa a PO for 30 tons of aluminum sheet.

      Projects like this very frequently are co-developed with the supplier in order to take advantage of the resources and knowledge of both companies.

      As noted above, Ford is only applying the aluminum in low-stress body panels. Even if they were using it for frames, I wouldn’t be too concerned about the fatigue limit. Both the aviation and automotive industries have decades of experience selecting materials and designing aluminum components with a fatigue limit far in excess of the practical life of the part/vehicle.

      Are you also “very, very worried” about fatigue in widely-used aluminum control arms, wheels, or brake calipers? If not, why?

      • 0 avatar
        Kinosh

        Bike, awesome point, and I thought (based on an old picture) that the aluminum was spreading around the cab and frame. I stand corrected.

        I’m not terribly worried about aluminum in wheels and brake calipers, because we’re very, very good at making them. We have for a long time. Additionally, a back of the envelope calculation comparing shear and normal forces on a caliper suggest that the forces relative to yield strength are very low. No problems there.

        These, however, are one-off parts. You can have massive changes in applied forces and directions based on a little bit of yield in one component or deformation in another.

        The aviation industry wrote the book on working with exotic materials, yes. It, however, is written in blood and money (The Comet and the 787 come to mind). The auto industry hasn’t really done that yet.

        If Ford stays to low-load components, they’ll be ok in terms of design strength. But frankly, it’s my money and I’d prefer not to subsidize Ford R&D with my warranty claims.

        • 0 avatar
          bikegoesbaa

          I don’t disagree with your fundamental points, and that this is absolutely something that any manufacturer could get very wrong. Certainly much moreso than with steel.

          True aluminum-bodied cars are not new, Jag and Audi both had technically successful all-aluminum sedans that (AFAIK) did not have issues with fatigue failures.

          The first aluminum XJs were built and designed under Ford ownership and have been on the road for 10+ years now. Granted, a luxury sedan application is not directly comparable to a pickup truck; but it demonstrates that the industry can do it successfully.

          If anything I’d expect an all-aluminum BOF vehicle to be easier to model and get right than a unibody; since the frame is structurally simpler and weight is less of a concern on trucks than passenger cars.

          From a fatigue standpoint cars are much easier than airplanes, both because the product and the forces involved are much smaller and because they are unpressurized.

          Many of the fatigue concerns in aviation come from the cyclic stress of repeated pressurization rather than traditional mechanical loading.

          • 0 avatar
            Toad

            Don’t forget that commercial truck and bus makers have been using aluminum in cab and body components since the 1940′s, and their service requirements are an order of magnitude greater than pickup trucks. You don’t hear about Kenworth cabs falling apart, even after decades of daily service as a dump truck.

            All new or redesigned vehicles have development problems; prior to the internet we never got to hear about them. Odds are Ford and their suppliers will work this out.

    • 0 avatar

      Are you okay with flying an airplane with aluminum spar?

      One difference is that of course there’s a cycle limit on bigger spars, and even some smaller ones (like Piper PA-38). A user of a car is free to drive the aliminum-frame truck until it falls apart, and then sue the car company, whereas if airpframe is over the limit, it is not airworthy anymore and the user must scarp it. But surely such legalities make no difference in basic utility.

      • 0 avatar
        Kinosh

        Pete, I’d agree with that. The reason the aerospace industry gets away with the factors of safety they do is because of inspection and initial quality. An airplane’s frame MUST be scrapped after xx,xxx number of cycles, regardless of whether or not it still works. Additionally, A, B, C, & D checks are completed throughout the life of the craft that range from “visual inspection” to “tear it down to bare metal”. Cars don’t go through this.

        However, the points above about truck makers and the Audi Al sedans are good points. This will be a “wait and see” sort of deal for me!

    • 0 avatar
      carve

      Freightliner has been using aluminum frames on their trucks for decades. B-52′s have been flying since the 60′s. It doesn’t have a fatigue limit, but we can design things to last the desired amount of time even in heavy duty situations such as these.

    • 0 avatar
      amca

      Delivering enough sheet aluminum to build 850,000 half-ton pick-ups a year is no small task. You don’ just pull that out of inventory, least of all not when you’re providing what’s probably a special highly engineered product to Ford’s exacting specs. I wouldn’t be surprised if this required major upgrades to Alcoa facilities – if not whole new facilities – to meet the demands of the F-150.

  • avatar
    philadlj

    Lucky for Ford, GM DIDN’T delay the Silverado for a year to make it BETTER than the present competition rather than simply “as good as.”

  • avatar
    55_wrench

    How is it that Tesla is cranking out aluminum-bodied cars (and Land Rover too, IIRC) and there are no issues with those designs?

    –and we have a company who wrote the book on modern vehicle assembly struggling?

    This is getting interesting….

    • 0 avatar
      Hummer

      Humvee is also aluminum, as well as everything on the c-series, the H1 is all aluminum except doors and roof, (DOT issue)

    • 0 avatar
      Stuck in DC traffic

      Having owned a 95 discovery that at 6 years old the steel roof was rusting where it contacted the aluminum body panels. The metallurgy of using two different metals have to done very carefully. I think Ford and Tesla can do a better job than Rover ever could. (that might be post traumatic rover owner syndrome speaking) But an industry geared to using steel is going to experience growing pains. They need to study the Audi A8, it has longer track record of aluminum production than Tesla.

  • avatar
    Z71_Silvy

    Typical Ford. Over complicating things just to over complicate them.

    What a failed company.

  • avatar
    LordDetroitofLondon

    Haven’t Ford learned anything about using Aluminum from their time with Jaguar and Land Rover?

  • avatar
    vcficus

    Note the current GM pickup ad with the sub breaking through the ice behind it… “cold rolled STEEL” “just like the US Navy uses”…

    Undertone: “not like that flimsy aluminmum siding our competition is thinking about!”

    They’re pre-loading the Fear Uncertainty and Doubt in the potential Ford pickup buyer base already, which is a pretty conservative group in terms of liking New or Different in their vehicles.

    Long term this is the way the industry has to go due to fuel regulations, short term there may be some pain.

  • avatar
    thelaine

    I don’t think Ford fans should be too concerned. The truck people at Ford seem to mostly run their own shop and they have done pretty good job for a long time.

  • avatar
    Lou_BC

    I personally prefer to stay away from any new model. Give it a year or two or three. I’m sure they will work it out. I am more concerned about dissimilar metals than I am concerned about the strength of aluminum body panels in low stress components.

  • avatar

    Why AL? I would like to see more carbon fiber in our vehicles, especially trucks.

  • avatar
    Lou_BC

    @Pete Zaitcev – as far as I can recall, the hood,trailing arms, and wheels are the only aluminum parts on the current F150.

  • avatar
    That guy

    Just a couple of things:

    1. New technology almost always goes through a teething phase during development, it’s probably better to delay it and get it right than “just roll with it”.

    2. The thinner gauge steel on non-tow frames is nothing new.

    3. Yeah, Jaguar and Land Rover use aluminum, but these aluminum vehicles cost 3X what a base F150 costs and don’t move anywhere near the volume an F150 moves.

    4. On it being a supplier vs OEM issue, it’s likely shared blame. Alcoa is an industry leader in aluminum tech, Ford more than likely leaned on them for expertise in this project.

  • avatar
    FakeAlcoa

    It’s fun to watch the speculation when you know the actual truth.


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