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.