By on February 13, 2014

ford f-150_r

As Ford’s newest F-150 dons an aluminium crown in place of steel, the usurpers waiting to take the throne of Truck Mountain are running to secure their own supplies of the lightweight metal.

The Detroit News reports that every automaker not named Ford has looked at the Blue Oval’s plans for aluminium use in order to meet CAFE standards with as little effort as possible, prompting a run to any supplier to help them with their ambitions.

One such manufacturer, Novelis Inc., has seen an increase of business as a result of the F-150′s battle plan, with head Tom Boney telling the newspaper how the run is affecting his business and that of his customers:

“There’s isn’t an automotive manufacturer that makes vehicles in North America that we’re not talking to. Our customers will be making announcements fairly regularly over the next six years that will transform the automobile industry.”

In the near term, Ford has most of the automotive-grade metal locked up for their new truck, which should give both automakers and suppliers enough time to see how Ford’s strategy plays out while also working on their own plans, tooling and production capacity.

Alcoa spokesman Kevin Lowery added that aluminium is the No. 2 material in automobile production, with North American producers aiming to double their use of the metal by 2025 at the same time CAFE standards hit a new peak of 54.5 mpg; Novelis expects usage to climb from 6 percent today to 25 percent by 2020.

Though Boney remained mum on specific vehicle programs waiting to use aluminium, he noted that more trucks will likely follow the F-150′s lead, as well as SUVs. Already, both GM and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles use the metal in the hoods and chassis components for their respective trucks, while Jaguar and Range Rover already sell aluminium-bodied vehicles.

Ultimately, though, he says that customers will come out on top of this new arms race among manufacturers:

“The automobile industry in Detroit is at its best when innovation is occurring at a rapid pace. That’s the period Ford has thrust us into in a big way”

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65 Comments on “New F-150 Prompts Aluminium Run By Competitors...”


  • avatar
    schmitt trigger

    “The automobile industry in Detroit is at its best when innovation is occurring at a rapid pace. That’s the period Ford has thrust us into in a big way”

    Exactly….
    even though in public they may downplay Ford’s move, I’m pretty sure that behind the scenes everyone has already organized a skunk works team, to look at near future implementation.

    • 0 avatar
      gmichaelj

      I’m no auto insider, but what amazes me is how LONG it takes for automakers to engineer solutions which have been discussed for years. I clearly remember reading business articles discussing the virtues of using aluminum in car production when I was in business school in 1995.

      • 0 avatar
        danio3834

        The use of aluminum in automobiles did significantly increase in the 90′s with many body panels being made out of the material. Due to cost factors and the lack of an immediate need to drastically reduce weight for fuel economy purposes, it didn’t really proliferate into the entire body structure of vehicles at that time in any big way. Now that automakers are being required to hit lofty fuel economy targets or face large penalties, the cost of aluminum is suddenly more workable.

      • 0 avatar
        Eric M

        Any new technology takes a long time to get right, especially for low-cost durable goods (like cars). The auto industry is on a ~5 year product cycle, so 20 years is only about 4 product generations. Compare to consumer electronics there those same 4 generations takes closer to 5 years, or consumer disposables which can have 4 generations in two years.

  • avatar

    STEEL IS STRONGER, CHEAPER and BETTER for trucks.

    • 0 avatar
      NeilM

      Define better. Define trucks.

      • 0 avatar
        romanjetfighter

        Hah. Steel is better because it reminds people of sweaty macho men hammering and riveting manly stuff. Aluminum is the flimsy stuff your wife uses to cover up leftovers. Why do you think Ford has to specify it’s “military grade” whenever they mention it on their website? Trucks sell on perception and emotional appeals, just like any other car.

      • 0 avatar
        chuckrs

        Define steel. Ranges from stuff with a minimum yield strength of 35ksi (that often certifies to 50ksi) to some of the high strength steels that have a minimum yield of over 200ksi. Little things like formability, weldability, corrosion resistance and fatigue strength factor in also. If it’s part of the collision crush zone, way more complicated yet.

        You want a aluminum panel with the same oilcanning resistance as a steel panel? The plate bending equation indicates that you can use aluminum and recover the same panel stiffness as the steel ones. You do this by increasing the thickness of the aluminum substitute by the cube root of 3 or 1.44 and also save 50% of the weight. Differences in yield strength between the selected grade of steel and the selected grade of aluminum will determine if the panels just oilcan or get a permanent dent. Reality is more complicated than that, but its a good start.

    • 0 avatar
      romanjetfighter

      Not compared to aluminum alloy AA 6061. ;)

      http://www2.galcit.caltech.edu/~tongc/html/data/elastic/Extruded_Alloy_6061.pdf

    • 0 avatar
      mcs

      >> STEEL IS STRONGER, CHEAPER and BETTER for trucks.

      So, are you predicting a lower crash testing score for the F-150? Remember, they’ve upgraded the frame to high strength steel. If it was an aluminum frame, I’d worry, but it’s not.

      • 0 avatar
        bryanska

        No, I think he has a good point about it being stronger and cheaper… and thus better for trucks.

      • 0 avatar
        Sutures

        “If it was an aluminum frame, I’d worry, but it’s not.”

        Why would an AL frame worry you? Semi trucks have been available with AL frames since the seventies.

        If the engineering calculations are done properly, you could make a completely safe frame out of paper mache.

        • 0 avatar
          mcs

          >> Why would an AL frame worry you?

          I think you’re probably right, but I do have a collection of snapped and cracked aluminum parts that failed over time. I just looked at one of the snapped parts and it’s about 25mm thick. Another part from I what I think is 6106 is showing stress cracks. So, I’ve had some bad personal experience with it. Not something I read on the internet – real failures.

        • 0 avatar
          hf_auto

          Those AL semi-truck frames have a very specific application that doesn’t translate very well to pickups.

          The AL frames aren’t particularly durable (they’re designed for minimal weight) and the trucks are typically scrapped after the first owner (whereas most trucks see 2-3 owners). The fleets that buy AL frame rails can absorb the cost of scrapping the trucks because their cargo has a very high cost-per-pound, so the few hundred pounds saved on frame rails means a few hundred pounds more cargo to pay back the $60k loss on the back end. A pickup owner isn’t hauling bulk fuel, so frame rails with a 7-8 year life wouldn’t be wise. That said, a slightly beefier AL frame rail could probably enjoy a long life.

          • 0 avatar
            George B

            Semi-trucks make widespread use aluminum for the cabs. The Ford F-150 is making a similar use of aluminum for the cab.

        • 0 avatar
          Big Al from Oz

          @Sutures
          During WWII, Mustangs flying over Europe required cheap external tanks (drop tanks) to increase fuel load to escort bomber to Germany and back.

          They actually used paper mache’ for the construction of the tanks, as the tanks were one use only.

          This saved considerable money of a rare resource.

          • 0 avatar
            johnny ro

            Another reason if I remember correctly was USAAF did not want to be dropping aluminum or steel gas tanks over Germany where the Germans would be able to recycled them.

            I also think that paper tanks were one time use, i.e. engineered to a specific purpose, just as any other material can be. IF they wanted them to be multi-time use they would have done that.

        • 0 avatar
          wumpus

          [engineering grade] paper mache is more impressive than you might think. I once had a job fitting the back of a Humvee for the Marines with every bit of IT gear you could shake a stick at: the whole formed a shelter enclosed with this stuff. Basically take news-grade paper and form it into a honeycomb shape then coat with a fiberglass type resin and you get a high-strength/low weight panel.

          The big catch is that I doubt it is available in anything other than panels (although if you want it for something with the volume of the F-150, more doors are going to open). Making enough crush room would be difficult.

      • 0 avatar
        NotFast

        Are we still replying to Bigtruck’s posts?

    • 0 avatar
      daver277

      ‘STEEL IS STRONGER, CHEAPER and BETTER for trucks’

      Very true, if you are comparing steel to ash or hickory wood……

    • 0 avatar
      wmba

      @BTSR

      “Steel is stronger cheaper and better for trucks”

      Fixed the shouting for you.

      You made the same statement last week.

      I see you’re upset that Ford didn’t hire a geologist and YouTube bozo to properly inform them how to design automotive structures. No, instead of that, they hired actual experts, hundreds of them.

      It’s an absolute disgrace when they could have had your advice for nothing.

      • 0 avatar

        There’s a reason why it’s: “BUNS OF STEEL” rather than “Buns of Aluminum”…

      • 0 avatar
        ellomdian

        DONT take the FRANK MILLER our of BTRS! IT’S WAY MORE enjoyable WHEN RANDOM words ARE CAPITALIZED – read it out LOUD for more EMPHASIS.

        To be fair, BTRS has been making the same statements (at least when he doesn’t contradict himself) for the entirety of his time at TTAC.

        Just curious how much aluminum was in that Ghibli he test drove last week… Inquiring minds want to know!

        • 0 avatar

          Are you kidding?

          The GHIBLI had HORRIBLE ride quality.

          The V6 Twin Turbo was ridiculously loud and racy for no damn reason at all. You’d have to be a fool to buy a Ghibli over a 300SRT.

          -No adaptive cruise control.
          - far fewer features than my 300 (and Charger)
          - the same quality of switches in a car half the price (and the Dodge Dart)

          And they really want you to spend $90,500 because it’s “an Italian car focused on sport driving”? Yeah OK SURE…

          I’d rather buy a Tesla Model S with that cash. Or an AWD Audi A7 and have a better all around car.

          • 0 avatar
            davefromcalgary

            Seems as if the Gigli is a product of the “James May Nurburgring Dismal Ride Quality Causation Theory”.

          • 0 avatar

            Basically, the GHIBLI is what you’d get if you took the equipment of my Jeep SRT and put it into a “car”.

            But you get soooo much more if you just buy SRT:

            #1 SRT racing/performance computer (why doesn’t the Ghibli have a version of this?)

            #2 AWD with Launch Control

            #3 Heated/ Cooled features you’d have to spend up theass for in the Ghibli (way over $85,000)

            It doesn’t make sense when you could just get an A7. Or even an S7.

      • 0 avatar
        Pch101

        “It’s an absolute disgrace when they could have had your advice for nothing.”

        Even when it’s free, some advice is grossly overpriced.

  • avatar
    romanjetfighter

    Ford is using high strength aluminum alloys and not just aluminum for their trucks. These alloys can be stronger and more durable than their steel counterparts in the automotive industry as well as having greater corrosion resistance compared to steel, all in a lighter material.

    Ford is also using more high strength boron steel for their frames and pillars than before. This also equates to a lighter, but stronger truck. All of this is at a great cost and initial investment by Ford. I believe I read somewhere that it is the second largest aluminum contract in America.

    While the competition will try and use the “weak” perception of aluminum against Ford, in the coming years, they will also start to adopt the very same strategy as they try to conform to CAFE regulations and standards.

  • avatar
    Pan

    Where aluminum meets steel on these new products, any rust problems due to chemical reaction? I know Jaguar uses aluminum; but, they also used Nikasil, after it had failed with BMW.

    • 0 avatar
      carguy67

      Austin-Healeys have Al front and rear shrouds, and steel doors and wings (fenders). We’re restoring a ’56, and the AL and steel flanges were fine where they meet up, but I’ve seen some instances of bad electrolytic corrosion on cars that were not stored properly. If the paint is in good nick, and the cars didn’t sit outside in a corrosive (e.g. marine) environment there’s usually no problem. I suspect Ford will anodize or otherwise protect areas where the two metals come in contact.

  • avatar
    cRacK hEaD aLLeY

    1) steel is better than aluminum. aluminum is worse than carbon fiber and carbon fiber is worse than steel and titanium rules but sometimes it cracks too.

    2) 4×4 large format camera is better than digital

    3) my Motobecane 10-speed chrome-moly frame bike on the cold asphalt resonates at a frequency no Malaysian composite carbon fiber-aluminum hydroformed frame can resonate

    4) I only fly Boeing because they still have stick and rudder and the pilots override the computers all the time.

    5) Harleys and Bultacos are the real deal, none of that modern jap crap.

    6) My sailboat is made of reinforced concrete, easier to repair than fiberglass, everybody knows that.

    7) Betamax is better than VHS but HD DVD is better than BlueRay

    9) Acetate is better than FLAC

    10) Asymmetric tires are bad because you can’t rotate them left and right and they make the car pull to the side.

    11) Prius sucks, Chevy Volt owners should be shot and Jeep Patriot is great.

    12) .45 is better than 9mm, .40 is better than .357 and everyone knows 30-06 is better than .308 and 223 is for sissies and 7mm Mag is for euro fags.

    • 0 avatar
      schmitt trigger

      Additional musings:
      1.44 Mb HD floppies store the information way better than a 4Gb USB memory.

      Forget about satellite radio; shortwave SSB is the real deal.

      Vinyl records sound better than CDs, specially after being played 1000 times.

      Forget about point and click interface; real computers use a command-line operation. Strictly using black-and-white monitors and dot matrix printers, of course.

    • 0 avatar
      Drzhivago138

      Heh, I went to the SD School of Mines for a year and they were building concrete canoes and model airplanes, both sail-able and flyable, respectively. The trick is to mix those little porous glass balls in with the concrete.

      • 0 avatar
        KixStart

        Many years ago (like, the ’60′s), “Popular Science” or similar ran an article about a concrete sailboat someone had built. It was the wave of the future. I notice that this advance did not catch on widely.

        I think that was before those little glass bubbles were commercially available for reaasonable prices.

        • 0 avatar
          davefromcalgary

          In Canada, our engineering schools have a nationwide concrete toboggan competition. Good times. Not as technically challenging as a concrete canoe, but still a ton of fun!

          I knew a guy who was on a concrete canoe team, but he refused to go into details…

          • 0 avatar

            Look up ferro cement boats it was a big craze in the 70′s.
            Its actually not a bad way to build a displacement hull the problem was when everyone tried to do it in their backyard with chicken wire and trowels.

          • 0 avatar
            TEXN3

            Yup, built one in college as part of the ASCE competition. We did rather well except we were not as great of rowers in the races. It was fun and taught me quite a bit about materials. I switched to geo engineering and work for an electrical utility. Go figure.

  • avatar
    Pch101

    Aluminium? Was TTAC acquired by the Brits?

    • 0 avatar
      mike978

      One can but hope!

    • 0 avatar
      th009

      Or Canadians, or Aussies, or South Africans, or Kiwis, or …

      Aluminium is spelled consistently with Sodium, Lithium, Titanium, and many other elements.

      Or should it be a word with a random vowel loss like “gage”?

      • 0 avatar
        Pch101

        The Canadians tend to use the American variation.

        The Brit who discovered/ created the stuff called it aluminum prior to calling it aluminium.

        http://www.worldwidewords.org/articles/aluminium.htm

        Random vowels are a peculiarity of British English, which are reduced to some extent in American English due to Noah Webster’s partially successful war on silent letters and spellings that were otherwise not phonetic.

        • 0 avatar
          KixStart

          He should have kept on going. I can only imagine how easy spelling lessons could have become.

          • 0 avatar
            Pch101

            We didn’t go nearly as far as Webster would have liked. (For one, he had a real thing for the letter “k”.) BMW would have been the Ultimate Driving Masheen, which just seems silly.

        • 0 avatar
          th009

          Both are used in Canada. Have you ever heard Ron Fellows pronounce this word?

          Webster’s changes might have made sense if they had been applied consistently throughout the language (rather than coming up with gems like “tung”). But then it really wouldn’t be English any more.

          Oh yes, Sir Humphrey originally called it Alumium, not Aluminum. As pointed out in the very link you posted.

          • 0 avatar
            Pch101

            What I said is that he called it aluminum prior to calling it aluminium. That was true when I previously said it, and hasn’t changed since then.

            I’m not a linguist, but linguists certainly know better than to believe that there is always only one correct way to pronounce and spell words. Usage varies among dialects, and they are all correct within the context of their respective locales.

          • 0 avatar
            th009

            Yes, you did say it — but it’s a bit of red herring as he called it Alumium even before that.

            There are certainly multiple ways to spell it. But you were the one complaining about the spelling in the article, not me.

          • 0 avatar
            Pch101

            I wasn’t complaining, I was joking. At least Mike got it.

    • 0 avatar
      Big Al from Oz

      @Pch101
      AlUMINIUM is the correct spelling. It is a metal like many metals and actually in many sciences Latin and Greek is used in the speling of words.

      ALUMINIUM is actually quite a recent metal and 150 years ago or so it was rare.

      I can’t help it if you Americans can’t spell. It really doesn’t worry me. What is important is that the message comes across.

      If you have any issues concerning the CORRECT spelling of words google is quite useful.

      Actually you should use google much more often then you wouldn’t post such inaccurate garbage.

  • avatar
    Big Al from Oz

    I don’t see how aluminium will be any worse than steel.

    I do envisage working with aluminium to be more expensive than steel. This is a given. But over time aluminium will become more competitive.

    As I’ve pointed out the steel industry isn’t sitting on it’s laurels, it is also developing ways to counter aluminium.

    The only people to lose out will be people who just can’t afford to buy a F-150 and want one. They will buy a Colorado diesel instead, it’ll do most of what a 2.7 Eco Boost can do and would be expected to do.

    • 0 avatar
      Z71_Silvy

      Its really not…..unless Ford is doing it. They really can’t do much with out screwing it up royally these days. This includes all aspects of vehicle “design” (term used extremely loosely when applied to a Ford product)

      Ford could not even get the aluminum hood right on the Mustang and has completely ignored the issues leaving customers with corroding hoods that the paint flakes off.

      Ford made a huge mistake here for the pitiful savings of 700 pounds in the trucks heaviest configuration. That means it will only weigh 250 pounds or so less than the steel using competition.

      Between the POS, high strung gas guzzling engines and the corroding, paint flaking aluminum body, there is literally no reason to even consider a Ford “truck”. Is just a reason to avoid them at all cost.

      • 0 avatar
        TEXN3

        That is some really great objective information, I’ll definitely consider your comments when I go to purchase a truck next fall. Ford is definitely off my list now, thanks to your factual statements.

        • 0 avatar
          Z71_Silvy

          Do some research rather than waving the blue pom poms.

          Egoboost engines drink fuel at a rate equal to or worse than a V8.

          Ford is completely ignoring the issues with corrosion and flaking pain on the Mustang.

          Where did I lose you?

          • 0 avatar
            TEXN3

            I’m not sure I understand your response to me, we only own a graymobile (because it’s not beige) Honda Accord and I ride Cannondales daily.

            Flaking pain sounds bad. Probably worse than gout.

          • 0 avatar
            Z71_Silvy

            *flaking paint.

            Damn phone…who let Ford design the software for my phone???

  • avatar
    Dr. Kenneth Noisewater

    Here’s hoping they don’t get screwed by the Midwest premium, courtesy of the Vampire Squid and its colleagues:

    http://m.rollingstone.com/politics/news/the-vampire-squid-strikes-again-the-mega-banks-most-devious-scam-yet-20140212

    “When Goldman bought Metro in February 2010, the average delivery time for an aluminum order was six weeks. Under Goldman ownership, Metro’s delivery times soon ballooned by a factor of 10, to an average of 16 months, leading in part to the explosive growth of a surcharge called the Midwest premium, which represented not the cost of aluminum itself but the cost of its storage and delivery, a thing easily manipulated when you control the supply. So despite the fact that the overall LME price of aluminum fell during this time, the Midwest premium conspicuously surged in the other direction. In 2008, it represented about three percent of the LME price of aluminum. By 2013, it was a whopping 15 percent of the benchmark (it has since spiked to 25 percent).

    “In layman’s terms, they were artificially jacking up the shipping and handling costs,” says Mehta.”

    • 0 avatar

      I remember hearing about that. They essentially delayed delivery then paid a division of themselves to store the material an extra amount of time there by creating an artificial price increase. Brilliant if you control a large portion of a material.

  • avatar
    JaySeis

    It’d be nice if this would begin a slowdown of the exodus of STRONGER, CHEAPER and BETTER STEEL that is constantly shipped overseas as scrap. Then again…I see car carriers coming in the Columbia River and scrap steel shipped out (along with logs, hay cubes, grains, and proposed for coal, LNG, etc).

    I live on the coast where the salt air eventually eats anything metal. We need better alloys & paint treatments designed with superior corrosion resistance.


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