By on June 24, 2014

2014 Ford Super Duty

A new aluminum age is about to dawn on Truck Mountain when its ruler, the Ford F-150, adopts the alloy for its new body in 2015. However, the revolution may not stop there if the Blue Oval has anything to say about it.

Automotive News reports KGP Photography spy photographer Brian Williams happened upon an F-350 prototype at an undisclosed testing facility in Colorado, where he applied a magnet upon the truck’s bed to discover a lack of attraction. KGP associate Glenn Paulina adds:

If they’re using aluminum here, in the key punishment-point of a heavy-duty work truck, it stands to reason that aluminum is being used throughout the rest of the Super Duty prototypes — just as they have on the 2015 Ford F-150.

The tactic discovered by Williams was first acknowledged by Ford earlier this year when it did the same to the F-150, providing six prototypes to its best commercial customers for a two-year pilot program where only the automaker knew what was behind the cab.

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27 Comments on “Ford Super Dutys To Follow F-150 Toward Aluminum Future...”

  • avatar

    “where he applied a magnet upon the truck’s bed to discover a lack of attraction.”

    To be fair, certain steel alloys are also non-ferromagnetic. Stainless steel is the most common example. I admit that in the given application a simple “magnet doesn’t stick” test strongly suggests that it probably is aluminum, it isn’t 100% conclusive.

  • avatar

    This is a bit of a head scratcher.

    Category 3 trucks (over 8500# GVWR) don’t get fuel economy ratings, so it’s not a CAFE play.

    Aluminum costs more to produce than steel, so it’ll lower the (incredibly fat) profit margins on these HD trucks.

    The one advantage I could see is since the GCWR for trailering stays constant, you can pull more weight with the same design with a lighter truck. More sales of a lower-profit truck could negate the profitability impact.

    What am I missing?

    • 0 avatar

      Fuel economy standards for medium-duty trucks began in MY 2014.

    • 0 avatar

      Economies of Scale? Freeze out the remaining automotive aluminum production to cripple GM? Alan Mullaly paying back an Alcoa favor from his Boeing days?

      • 0 avatar
        Nicholas Weaver

        Or that although MPG figures aren’t published, the vehicles are bought by buyers who actually care about total lifetime cost.

        Assume 14 MPG -> 18 MPG, and a 200k mile lifespan and $4/gallon fuel. That’s $12K in lifetime cost savings. Assume continued middle-east uncertanty and it gets even more adventurous.

        Given that interest rates themselves are near zilch, there is little opportunity cost in spending more to save that much later.

    • 0 avatar

      Commercial fleet buyers care A LOT about total costs over a vehicle’s service life. A 2 or 3 mpg advantage can sell a lot of trucks, all other things being equal.

    • 0 avatar

      Trucks are having to meet standards in relation to towing capabilities. Most companies have avoided meeting the standards by saying they will comply with the next model. Toyota met the standards right off the bat and some models took a drop in towing. GM is supposed to be following the standards this year and Ford with the 2015 1/2 tons. Aluminum and subsequent weight savings is one way to reduce the loss from meeting universal testing standards. Economies of scale is another reason. Larger trucks are also being held accountable for emissions and mpg.

    • 0 avatar

      GM trucks will soon go all-aluminum, including HDs. That would put steel Super Dutys at a huge disadvantage. And SDs up to F-750s will benefit too, if true.

      • 0 avatar

        You’ve brought up another point–assuming that the SDs will move back to the same/similar body as the 150’s, will the 2016 F-6/750’s continue to be produced on the ’11-style body in steel, the ’11-style body in aluminum, or the new aluminum body? All three options have advantages and disadvantages.

        • 0 avatar

          Ford is sticking to the different and separate SDs, from what I can tell. The new/next Super Duty test-mules are out. There’s specific reasons for completely different trucks than F-150s, that I forget, but heavy duty (front) suspensions differ greatly from F-150s, that are more car-like with coil-overs and rack/pinion steering.

          One thing is SDs are sticking to solid front axles, and twin-I-beams are back, on 2wds. These 2 things wouldn’t work on F-150s.

          But there would be no reason/advantage to continue the old/current cabs on F-650/750s. These trucks would help amortize the new F-250 to F-550 cabs, aluminum or not. And the F-650/750 trucks are relatively low volume.

          Also big truck consumers don’t need constant updates/refreshs/new generations, like light-duty consumers.

          • 0 avatar
            Big Al from Oz

            “Ford is sticking to the different and separate SDs, from what I can tell.”

            Can you provide a link to support your argument?

            The current test mules have nothing to do with MY2018 HDs.

            The EPA deferred the implementation of regulations for Class 3 and over vehicles until MY2018.

            I do think their would be a good chance the next round of HDs from Ford will be like the past. HD bodies will be based on the F-150.

          • 0 avatar

            @BAFO – I’m just going off of the obvious . Feel free to show otherwise.

            1st, Ford would have to compromise their definition of Heavy Duty. And there’s no reason to think Ford would not rather pay the minimal CAFE fines (and or buy credits), IF ANY, and keep on building what consumers demand.

            The tail doesn’t wag the dog…

    • 0 avatar

      Once set up properly, aluminum production does not need to cost more than steel. Pleasure boat builds, even in sizes where both alu and steel are viable, do not generally end up much pricier in alu than steel. Ditto for all but the absolute lowest end of bicycles. The raw material cost more than steel, as does setting up production processes, but there are components where working with alu is cheaper as well.

      The big unknown is making sure all the myriads of uses to which a heavy duty truck is put is not negatively affected. Like, how does bedliners bond to alu….. Galvanic corrosion when bubba screws steel screws through the bed….. etc. There’s an awful lot of uses of pickups that have been developed over the years, on the unstated assumption that the darned thing is made of steel..

  • avatar

    So much of what is being done in the name of fuel economy is either frivolous or has long term reliability and serviceability issues. Aluminum can be a winner though.

    Now for an aluminum Wrangler …

  • avatar

    Anybody ever rent one of those Home Depot F-350s? They have this cool aluminum bead where the sides flip down. The beds look fine, and I’m sure are used hard when they are rented for work duty.

  • avatar

    @pragmatist – targeting pickups and commercial units net much greater gains in fuel savings and emissions reductions than targeting cars.

    • 0 avatar
      Big Al from Oz

      I read a European working paper on the use of aluminium in larger trucks operating in the EU.

      They figure over the life of a “real” truck ie, Class 7 and 8 aluminium makes good sense, much less than diesel though.

      A truck working 24/7 will pay back the aluminium investment over several years.

      If a large truck takes several years to pay back the “aluminium” investment I do think HDs will take a little longer.

      Other gains in HDs from MY2018 onwards will be made from improved FE, this will mean smaller diesels, ie, the 5 litre V8 Cummins.

      Another gain is for HDs to improve their GCM as well. But with smaller engines, Hmmm…….

      So, I see lighter HDs with engines producing better FE (smaller) while trying to maintain similar GCMs to what is currently available.

      Starting to sound EU like. So, will the US have caveats on their FTA with the EU? As the EU already produces trucks will superior FE to their US counterparts.

      Canada with their FTA might move towards EU style trucks, similar to how we use trucks in Australia. This is a gradual change over years.

      • 0 avatar

        @BAFO – Can you provide a link to that “paper”? How much are they saying aluminum will add to the costs of said trucks? Are they factoring-in the longer life of aluminum trucks? Resale? Productivity?

        And are you sure Ford won’t absorb some or all of the added costs of F-series? If any?

        You do know the F-series is the most profitable line of cars on the planet, no?

        Only you (and Silvy) can take a positive advancement and huge step forward, and spin it into a negative.

        • 0 avatar
          Big Al from Oz

          Not hard DiM, just punch in, or, cut and paste the next sentence into your search engine. You appear to have difficulty using search engine often to give credibility to you statements.

          cost saving of aluminium in transport

          Try the above sentence, there are many sites with information to assist you.

  • avatar
    Big Al from Oz

    Class 3 and over pickups will facing some challenges in the future, but not as harshly as the Class 1 (midsizers) and 2 pickups (1/2 ton) under CAFE.

    HD’s currently are not required to meet the EPA regulations, this will be a requirement at MY18. Similar to the US tow standards, “meet the standards if you want scenario”.

    It seems diesel powered HD’s will be hit much harder than gasoline HD’s. HD diesel pickups are required to make a 50% greater FE improvement over gas. So, it does appear the US is penalising diesel powered vehicles.

    So, as well as aluminium are we also going to see smaller Powerstrokes?

    It seems Nissan with the Titan and Toyota might be delaying the introduction of their newly slated Class 3 pickups with diesels. This might be to reduce the improvement required from their diesels.

    Aluminium will make these trucks more expensive as well. This is a real pity.

    If regulations push up the cost of stepping into a HD and the US signs a FTA with the EU, will the chicken tax be dropped? Will the US receive some of the alternative style of trucks that the EU uses.

    I can see Transits especially flat beds, stepping in to fill some of the void. This style of vehicle will be attractive to a business where towing is limited to a few tonnes or less.

    The Transits can carry a HD load, but will have smaller and more efficient engines to use, ie, the 3.2 Duratorque diesel and slightly de-tuned EcoBoost.

    The US light commercial vehicle segment is becoming more interesting everyday. Manufacturers are coming up with different ideas, and I don’t think aluminium will win out.

    • 0 avatar

      “Will the US receive some of the alternative style of trucks that the EU uses.”

      Doubt it. As they have to meet crash, lighting, and emissions standards. It’s not a plug and play as everyone thinks it is.

      • 0 avatar
        Big Al from Oz

        I don’t that is an issue as the US is already adopting Euro vans, light commercials, ie, Ducato/Transits, etc.

        EuroVI will meet US EPA standards as well.

    • 0 avatar

      @BAFO – No link exists, especially when you pulled it out of your arse! Just show anything that shows how aluminum trucks cost anything more than steel trucks and how much. Funny how you have the “link” right in front of you, but you want me to wring out the entire interwebs to find it. Ya right!

      But industry doesn’t oversimplify a “load” like you do. Vans are perfect for very specific tasks, but the vast majority of industry prefer pickups. Notice how pickups going down the road are loaded with equipment, tools, supplies and random goods/textiles. They may look cluttered to the general pop, but everything is in easy reach, in plain sight and brightly lit. PITA to do the same in a van, climbing over a bunch of stuff..

      Every day you have to quickly throw different (often awkward) specialized tools/equipment/goods in the back and jam to the 1st spot, finish, throw everything back in, then haul A$$ to the next, and so on.

      The tailgate is an instant work table/seat also. Too handy!

      Pickup trucks are just too indispensable. Whatever you throw at them, doesn’t matter. Done and done. Say you have to 4X4 up a muddy hillside to switch buckets on a knuckle boom right there in the bed. Try that in a Sprinter/Transit/Etc.

      And I’ll never mind “towing” for a sec…

      Utilities, mining, oil drilling/exploration, forestry/ranger, highway/infrastructure, beach/lake/river/stream patrol, pest control, etc, etc, just demand pickups because you never know what the day is going to throw at you. Pickup trucks are always up for absolutely anything!! No modifications/conversions necessary… just straight out the box.

      Vans are a handicap to most of industry. And again, never mind how pickups wear several hats. Work, play, lifestyle, family truckster, RV, great outdoors, going out to a show/dinner/formal/black tie, and then back to work.

      I was at The Home Depot today, and looking at the ladders, there wasn’t a single steel ladder. Then you think about how obsolete they are. Stup!d actually… I don’t think I’ve ever seen a steel ladder in the wild. The same will happen to trucks eventually.

      Aluminum will win out, there’s no doubt.

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