Is Ford Building Trucks As Solid As Coke Cans?

Bertel Schmitt
by Bertel Schmitt
is ford building trucks as solid as coke cans

The Wall Street Journal has a long article about Ford “working on one of the biggest gambles in its 108-year history: a pickup truck with a largely aluminum body.” Ford will make parts of its next generation F150 from aluminum to save some 700 lbs, which “would enable Ford’s trucks to go farther on a gallon of gasoline, and open the door to other changes, such as the use of smaller engines.” The fear is that some people will think Ford is building a truck for sissies.

In a world where weight is regarded as strength, aluminum is often associated with a beer soda can that any good old boy can crush with one hand and then toss it in an environmentally responsible manner out of the window and in the back of the truck.

Some automotive engineers will tell you that certain aluminum alloys can actually be stronger than high tensile steel. Most importantly, in addition to being lighter than steel, aluminum alloy allows you to build stiffer bodies, important for both driving dynamics and crash-worthiness.

Aluminum also has its drawbacks. It is a bitch to weld. Body repairs usually must be done by specialized shops that charge very special prices.

To get the full benefit of an all-aluminum body, it must be redesigned from the ground up, including completely redesigned production engineering. For instance, the article complains that ”a big headache is the lack of magnetism, requiring powerful and electricity-hungry vacuums to be used to pick up the aluminum sheets for transfer. Assembly plants now use giant magnets to move steel body panels around.” This produces shudders at Volkswagen engineers. There, even steel sheets are moved via vacuum, simply to avoid the marring by the magnets.

The biggest problem is the PR problem. The public could be educated that aluminum can be better than steel – but then, comparisons would have to be made with steel. A company that still makes most of its cars from steel will avoid this comparison. And will have to deal with the misconceptions.

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  • Daveainchina Daveainchina on Jul 29, 2012

    How is this hard to sell to the average person. Aren't most aircraft made out of aluminum because it is stronger and lighter for all the right reasons? I thought your average rube on the street understood that cars were made from steel because it was cheaper, not necessarily better.

  • Motormouth Motormouth on May 08, 2015

    Pretty funny reading some of these comments, three years after the fact and Ford can't keep up with demand for the aluminum bodied F-150.

  • Fred The bigger issue is what happens to the other systems as demand dwindles? Will thet convert or will they just just shut down?
  • Roger hopkins Why do they all have to be 4 door??? Why not a "cab & a half" and a bit longer box. This is just another station wagon of the 21st century. Maybe they should put fake woodgrain on the side lol...
  • Greg Add me to the list: 2017 Sorento EX AWD w/2.0 Turbo GDI 68K miles. Changed oil religiously with only synthetic. Checked oil level before a rare long road trip and Ievel was at least 2 quarts down. That was less than 6 months after the last oil change. I'm now adding a quart of oil every 1000 miles and checking every 500 miles because I read reports that the oil usage gets worse. Too bad, really like the 2023 Tuscon. But I have not seen Hyundai/Kia doing anything new in terms of engine development. Therefore, I have to suspect that I will ony become a victim of a fatally flawed engine development program if I were to a purchase another Kia/Hyundai.
  • Craiger 1970s Battlestar Galactica Cylon face.
  • Master Baiter "...but the driver must be ready to step in and take control. The system is authorized for use during the day but at speeds lower than 40 mph..."Translation: It's basically useless, and likely more stressful than piloting the car ones's self.