By on October 16, 2014

2015-ford-f-150-in-detroit-front-side-view

Ford’s move to make the upcoming F-150 out of aluminum, along with GM’s plans to do the same with its trucks down the road, isn’t sitting well with the steel industry, to say the least.

PickupTrucks.com reports the Steel Market Development Institute — the marketing arm of eight United States-based steel producers — recently became the title sponsor of the Texas Auto Writers Association’s 2014 Truck Rodeo — where the Aluminum King of Truck Mountain took home the Truck of Texas title and four other awards — in part to promote steel. Outgoing SDMI vice president Ronald Krupitzer explains:

Texans know and love their trucks. When they need a vehicle to keep up with the workload and lifestyle, advanced high-strength steel offers the perfect balance between weight and performance… we look forward to partnering with the Texas Auto Writers Association and sharing their insight on why time-tested materials, like advanced steel, will help ensure the durability, strength and safety of future vehicles.

As emphasized by SMDI president Larry Kavanaugh, the F-150 may have an aluminum body, but the truck’s frame “uses more high-strength steel than any other pickup.” The group also proclaimed said steel would remain the choice of automakers through 2025 and beyond, while aluminum will go the way of the hula hoop, Tamagotchi and the Harlem Shake after a few years of experimentation.

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56 Comments on “Big Steel Steps Up Marketing Game Under Aluminum Shadow...”


  • avatar
    CoastieLenn

    Wait… the Harlem Shake is dead? Crap. I’m going to bring it back!

  • avatar
    DenverMike

    The Wooden Buggy Association said similar things about steel cars. Something about steel cars going the way of powdered wigs and wooden teeth.

    Eventually all cars and trucks will go to aluminum or alternative composites, 1st chance they get.

    But there’s no reason for anyone to panic. ALCOA is on a hiring frenzy.

    • 0 avatar
      Big Al from Oz

      @DiM,
      You tend to use the word “panic” often.

      What is it’s meaning?

      Are you over stating a position?

      Or are you again attempting to justify a non-existent issue.

      What are we to panic over?

      Can you please expand.

  • avatar
    anti121hero

    So in 20 years thy will be on the used market with perfectly clean bodies but frames cracked in half from rust.

    • 0 avatar

      Its a tough built Ford, not a Toyota Taco.

    • 0 avatar
      nickoo

      Depends on if the big 3 decides to spend that extra few bucks for adequate rust proofing or not…based on what I’ve seen on late model gm trucks, they mostly choose no. The 03 and up gm trucks I’ve looked at have been seriously shameful with frame and under carriagr rust, I’ve heard dodge is just as bad. If I owned a new truck, first thing I’d do would be to go buy some marine grade paint and spray the entire underbody and frame.

      • 0 avatar
        Lorenzo

        The dealer will sell you an undercoat for a small additional charge. Unfortunately, there are places that need rustproofing before the body goes on the frame, and even before the body is put together. There’s no substitute for rustproofing at the factory.

  • avatar
    cdotson

    Aluminum and steel would both be dropped like bad habits if anyone ever revolutionizes titanium production to make it cost-competitive.

    • 0 avatar
      nickoo

      Too rare, I would bet grades stainless such as 304 and 409 would come first.

      • 0 avatar
        cdotson

        Stainless steel will never make significant inroads to the automotive industry. It is more expensive and weaker than traditional steels and is as hard to form and weld as aluminum without any weight benefit. It is far cheaper to extensively treat steel for corrosion resistance and it is likely as effective as necessary for the current automotive market.

        Titanium is very common on earth, but the energy expenditure (cost) required to separate it into a metallic state is extraordinarily high. This used to be the case with Aluminum as well (the tip of the Washington Monument is capped in a pyramid of pure aluminum because at the time it was built that was the most precious metal there was in cost per ounce), but process improvements over the last century have brought it down to where mass production with aluminum is feasible. Titanium is still waiting for its day; the time of stainless probably will never come.

        • 0 avatar
          Lorenzo

          Yup, titanium is the 7th most abundant, but difficult to purify in quantity. But Somebody will eventually figure out a way to employ its anti-corrosive properties and light weight in low-cost, high-strength alloys. Eventually.

  • avatar
    Waterview

    Come on man, everyone knows plastic is the future!

  • avatar
    Mandalorian

    “Attention! The owner of the blue pickup, your truck is melting!”

  • avatar
    OneAlpha

    “The group also proclaimed said steel would remain the choice of automakers through 2025 and beyond, while aluminum will go the way of the hula hoop, Tamagotchi and the Harlem Shake after a few years of experimentation.”

    Interesting how a group makes a prediction that its favored thing is eternal, while the thing it’s advocating against is nothing but a fad.

    Also, this gem:

    “..time-tested materials, like advanced steel.”

    How can something be both advanced and time-tested?

  • avatar
    JD321

    And in other News,,,Lon Wong Dong, president of the International United Brothel Workers Brotherhood stated “Paying for sex is next to Godliness…Masturbation will go the way of the hula hoop”.

  • avatar
    KixStart

    I’m not sure what to make of SMDI’s predictions… we own a hula hoop.

  • avatar
    Tosh

    Interpretation: FWD mini pickups made from pure aluminum are just around the corner. I’ll wait…

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    “…we look forward to partnering with the Texas Auto Writers Association and sharing their insight on why time-tested materials, like advanced steel, will help ensure the durability, strength and safety of future vehicles…”

    Just what we need: more bought-and-sold auto “journalists.”

  • avatar
    STRATOS

    We were lead to believe the new f150 was all aluminum like the other aluminum cars.This makes the f150 even more prone to corrosion unless Ford has a special way of separating the two materials ,and to stay that way.

    • 0 avatar
      srogers

      Then you weren’t paying attention.

      Every reference that I’ve read about the aluminum bodied F150 has also mentioned its high strength steel frame.

    • 0 avatar
      cdotson

      In ladder-frame trucks the cab/bed “body” sits a few inches above the frame on isolators that are typically urethane. The body/frame never come into contact.

      The steel pieces of the crash structure that are within the body itself will likely be finished pieces with powder coating on them prior to being bolted into the aluminum body, or unfinished with a complete layer of industrial adhesive bonding the disparate materials together.

    • 0 avatar
      JD321

      They put a lot of effort into separating the two metals…no doubt. I would be concerned with what kind of paint they used. Aluminum oxidation is some nasty powdery stuff.

  • avatar
    Drzhivago138

    I never gave up on you, Tamagotchi…*sniff*…I still love you…

  • avatar
    schmitt trigger

    Next thing one will know, is that the US Steel Association will hire some lobbyists to persuade Congress to pass an anti-Aluminum-in-Motor-Vehicles legislation.
    Which will promptly escalate into a partisan fistfight in Congress, with Ted Cruz filibustering the Highway Funding Bill until ISIS is nuked.

    Or something along those lines.

  • avatar
    Big Al from Oz

    I do think aluminium will push up the price of vehicles.

    CAFE is what forced Ford to go down the aluminium pickup path.

    Steel with a diesel will still prove a more economical vehicle for the manufacturers and consumers, at least in our part of the world.

    Without the chicken tax this would have been a prohibitively expensive project.

    I do think some are hoping on this site for more than what Ford will be able to deliver.

    Really an aluminium alloy vehicle is more than acceptable, but how many will be prepared to pay the price for one?

    CAFE is the end of pickups as everyone knew them. The will become more and more middle class squeezing out the little guy.

    Before any of my avid detractors comment, I’m not stating the F Series will drop in the ass. They will still sell in huge numbers, but no where’s near what they currently sell.

    • 0 avatar
      DenverMike

      Aluminum cars will get more expensive. Aluminum cars will be cheaper to run though. A return of 2,000 lbs small cars would be very well received, especially while keeping 200 hp??? Sounds like a blast to me! Unibody cars would be better impacted by aluminum bodies than trucks keeping steel frames.

      It doesn’t matter if CAFE ‘forced’ aluminum trucks. It’s the right path for all OEMs to follow, regardless. And a clear advancement regardless.

      The economics of diesels don’t really pan out, except at the pump, but only marginally. Aluminum is a one time cost, and forget it’s there. Diesels are crazy expensive from the start, and high maintenance

      So how EXACTLY does the Chicken tax make aluminum trucks possible?

      The global point of view can’t possibly fathom millions of American would buying fullsize pickups annually (including the hot selling Tundras and Titans), except under duress, or a gun to their head.

      We can’t imagine what makes David Hasselhoff (Don’t hassle the Hoff!) such a big star around the world.

      But the Chicken tax “protects” many types of CUVs, SUV, cubes, (utility centric) plus Tacomas, Frontiers, Colorado/Canyons, Titans, Tundras, Ridglines, long before it protects F-series, Ram, Silverado/Sierra. If at all. Never mind HD trucks that help the bottom line of fullsize pickups tremendously.

      But you’ll blame CAFE for the eventual demise of midsize pickups, when their decline started long before CAFE clamped down on pickup trucks. It’s getting to be, the only real advantage of midsize trucks is the smaller packaging. This despite a long list of disadvantages. And not just vs fullsize pickups. ‘Utility’ centric autos offer much better value, packaging, comfort, mpg, etc.

      The Mini-Truck Movement was more of a passing trend. A ‘perfect storm’ for smaller pickups.

      The EU equivalent of CAFE favours the heavier vehicles, as it should. It’s no different than favouring a large footprint. But shouldn’t smaller vehicles have dramatically better mpg anyways?

  • avatar
    George B

    Big Al, the CAFE type fuel economy ratings are complex with many ways for manufacturers to game the system. http://www.caranddriver.com/features/the-cafe-numbers-game-making-sense-of-the-new-fuel-economy-regulations-feature

    It makes sense for Ford to make the Ford F-150 footprint, track x wheelbase, as large as possible to get easier fuel economy target. Reducing the mass of the body, transmissions with more gear ratios, downsized turbocharged gasoline engines, etc. allow Ford to score high mpg numbers on the EPA test cycle without making their trucks sluggish. Real world fuel economy won’t be close to the EPA results. If vehicles start to become too expensive, I would expect the fuel economy regulations to be relaxed.

    • 0 avatar
      Big Al from Oz

      @George B,
      I fully comprehend Ford’s decision. But, this will only survive within a certain and artificial environment.

      I do think this is a big gamble and I don’t think it’s necessary if the US just played ball like the rest of the world. It will unnecessarily increase the cost of vehicle ownership in the US and make pickup a less attractive proposition to own.

      US fuel regulations will not ease as you suggested. The EU is already years in front of the US regarding FE, it is attainable, but CAFE isn’t the correct instrument to use.

      Why do you think the US has so few indigenous vehicle designs of it’s own? Because someone has already been there and done that.

    • 0 avatar
      Lou_BC

      I agree with George. Current regulations are square foot based not tare weight based. Keeping the “footprint” large allows Ford to meet the targets of a larger truck. Ford has upped the cargo capacities of their trucks so the GVW ratings also remain in a higher class. TTDI V6 engines go through mpg and emissions testing better than equivalent HP V8’s.
      In some respects Ford is “gaming” CAFE with aluminum and V6 engines.
      Ford isn’t doing all of this to price themselves out of the market. This change over has been in the works for close to a decade.

      Will the price of Ford trucks go up?

      GM raised the price of the 2014 model without much of a change in technology.
      Who is going to bitch and complain if Ford raises the price of the F150 by the same amount as GM?

      • 0 avatar
        Big Al from Oz

        @Lou_BC,
        CAFE and how you described it is as I’ve stated. Pickups are manufactured to meet CAFE. They are built to set regulations and standards, which are unique to the US and protected with an import tariff.

        This will raise the cost of purchasing a pickup. We will be able to tell when the average transaction prices come out along with Ford’s bottom line.

        The new F-150 will cost Ford sales.

        @Jeff S,
        Increasing the chicken tax will have no effect on pickup imports as the 25% tax has already done it’s job reducing or stopping any external competition.

        • 0 avatar
          DenverMike

          @BAFO – Every market has its own unique “barriers”, but along with loopholes and workarounds, the US Market is the most generous and open to foreign OEMs, including those of pickup trucks.

          And it’s ridiculous you still deny the whole Mini-Truck Craze/Fad/Explosion, for it throws your curious conspiracy theories into the water.

          The Chicken tax may not have had the intentional consequence of protecting mostly offshore OEMs, but it is what it is. You forget the Tacoma, Tundra, Frontier, Titan and Ridgeline would be the primary target of global pickups, as far as pickups go.

          After that, global pickups would mostly cannibalize various utility and sporty focused autos, mostly from offshore OEMs.

          Yeah and a few “Big 3” 1/2 ton pickups too!

          But if Ford loses a couple sales, here or there, to consumers too miserly to pay for aluminum (despite aluminum’s quick payback), I’m sure that’s expected. But it’s the big buck, luxo truck buyers they’re no doubt more concerned about losing.

    • 0 avatar
      Pch101

      “It makes sense for Ford to make the Ford F-150 footprint, track x wheelbase, as large as possible to get easier fuel economy target.”

      No, it doesn’t make sense because the footprint size doesn’t ramp up to infinity.

      The net effect of the new CAFE is that large gas guzzlers are targeted for efficiency improvements. The Ecoboost turbos, aluminum construction, cylinder deactivation (GM) and diesels (Chrysler) are not a fluke; they are intended to improve the MPG ratings due to the footprint rules.

      Under the old rules, a gas guzzler could be offset by averaging it with something that used less fuel (hence, the motivation to classify the PT Cruiser as a “truck”, so that it could offset the full-size trucks.) That is no longer going to be possible; the footprint mandates improvements for all size classes.

      The OEMs still have to meet fleet-wide averages, too. The companies with small cars have an advantage, since they will be able to sell off credits.

      • 0 avatar
        Lou_BC

        @Pch101 – car companies can’t make pickups any bigger because they will creep into the larger classes. The Ram 3500 and F450 both sit at the limit of class 4. It does benefit companies to keep current footprints for ratings and decrease weight.(As previously stated).

        There have been stories stating that car companies may get rid of short box reg cab 1/2 ton trucks all together because they fit into smaller truck mpg/emissions regulations. You combine that with the tendency for those trucks to have lower profit margins as well.

        FCA is in a bind because they have the poorest CAFE average. Toyota could sell a V12 Tundra getting 4 mpg and not have to worry about hurting their CAFE rating.

      • 0 avatar
        DenverMike

        The differences are way overplayed. The CAFE model is based on a tiny base Chevy S10, that’s long gone. The F-150 example is a Super cab and 8′ bed that’s much longer that the average F-150 crew cab and 5.5′ bed.

        And the longest midsize pickup has a bigger footprint than the base fullsize.

        The real problems is midsizers struggle give any real fuel savings, vs fullsize, given similar layouts, but smaller footprint. Sometimes worse.

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    I understand why Ford is going to aluminum and smaller engines. Actually if all the trucks went to aluminum that would be good. I have changed my mind about the cost of aluminum and now favor it because trucks have become so expensive that those that want them will buy them anyway so what is a little more for aluminum. Also it is using market forces of higher prices of trucks to make alternative types of vehicles more attractive (not necessarily smaller trucks). Price trucks in the range of a luxury vehicle and those that can afford them will buy them and others will seek alternatives which are either used trucks or new vehicles that are not trucks. Actually they should put the base model at 30k and offer it well optioned. The dealers would prefer that as well because they make more money on a full loaded crew cab than a work truck. If you cannot afford a new truck then don’t buy one and raise the Chicken tax to 35% to protect the market.

    • 0 avatar
      DenverMike

      @Jeff S – Why would upping the Chicken tax 10% protect the market? Would upping it 400% offer more protection when OEMs can easily exploit a loophole? Same as always? And what “market” is the Chicken tax “protecting”? The CUV market? You weren’t referring to US pickups, were you? Mostly the Tacoma, Frontier, Colorado/Canyon, Titan, Tundra and Ridgeline, right? Would these even exist without the Chicken tax???

  • avatar
    relton

    Aluminum corrosion is nothing to sneeze at. Ford had, and is having, tremendous problems with corroding aluminum hoods on Mustangs, Explorers, & F150s. Corrosion starts between two pieces of aluminum, usually at the front of the hood. There are plenty of lawsuits going on.

    We recently suffered this with our 2006 Mustang. We paid $800 to have the hood fixed. After a little haggling, Ford paid us $300, just enough, I think, to keep us from joining a class action lawsuit.

    If you dig deep enough into this issue, you will find that Ford really doesn’t know why this is happening, and what to do to stop it.

    I watch with interest to see how the new F150 fares.

    Meantime, I can already see the Ram commercial. Close up to a beer can in a guy’s hand. Deep voice: “Lots of things are made of aluminum today.” Beer can leaves the picture for a deep swallow. Deep voice. “Some people even make their pickups out of aluminum”. Hand crushes beer can, lets it drop to the floor. Deep voice. “RAM trucks. Built steel-tough!” RAM truck plants go to 7 days a week to make enough trucks.

    Bob

    • 0 avatar
      Lou_BC

      @relton – Ford isn’t the only company with aluminum hoods.

      “The Ram 1500 also features an aluminum hood, saving 26 pounds.”

      that is straight from a FCA press release.

    • 0 avatar
      DenverMike

      @relton – Funny my aluminum hood is bolted directly to steel hinges, with nothing in between, except paint.

      Those with corrosion issues on aluminum body panels have to be an extremely low percentage, what with 10s of millions on the road, dating back 20+ years.

      • 0 avatar
        Big Al from Oz

        @DiM,
        Bonding isn’t done with painted surfaces. The surface finish offers protection against dissimilar metal contact.

        There is a significant amount of literature on the net regarding bonding processes with aluminium alloys.

        Also, a lot is dependent on what the aluminium is alloyed with. So, what is 6000 series aluminium alloyed with? Now that metal is within the aluminium. The alloyed metal within the aluminium also starts to corrode if exposed to an oxidant.

        Dirt and grime combined with moisture and road salts can also affect and will definitely accelerate corrosion.

        Your backyard metallurgy isn’t sufficient.

        Read up a little first before passing comment. It makes you appear as if you lack knowledge.

        I do recommend you research first. If I were you since you don’t even have a rudimentary idea, is to look at a galvanic table and then look at what metal are used in alloying.

        Here a hint the metal at the top of the table is least reactive than the metals at the bottom of the table.

    • 0 avatar
      Big Al from Oz

      @relton,
      Ford would know what’s occurring. Are you attempting an anti-Ford comment? This ain’t rocket science.

      Making a quick assessment from your comment it would be feasible that contaminants, ie, moisture mixed with salts and other minerals (dirt) has entered between the join or two pieces of alloy.

      Once this occurs you have created the ideal situation for corrosion to place. You don’t require two different metal to generate corrosion in aluminium.

      Aluminium is alloyed with different metals. These metals and the aluminium act as a anode and cathode. When a path is created by moisture and accelerated with minerals and salts is presented ions flow the anode to the cathode. The deposit that develops is the metals forming their original oxides.

      This is corrosion (even rust).

    • 0 avatar
      cdotson

      I guess it would depend on where on the hood this is happening but my guess is that you would see potential issues with windshield washer fluid running around the edge of the hood and potentially seeping into the hem where the top panel and lower support panels are folded/bonded together. Many windshield washer fluids have methanol in them which is pretty corrosive to aluminum.

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    I was just making the argument that some would make to protect the truck market at all costs. I think some of the big increase in sales of new trucks is due to those who have delayed purchase due to the economy and those that are buying before trucks become more expensive and much more regulated. It helps when there are 10k and more discounts on new trucks. Large discounts on new trucks now will effect sales of new trucks in the near future. Many who are buying glitzy trucks will move on to the next must have vehicle. Today’s trucks are much less about function than making a statement. The demand for trucks is not inelastic as some would think.

  • avatar
    ihatetrees

    I think there’s a good chance that 3+ years hence the CAFE insanity driving expensive investments (like aluminum and annoying 8 speed transmissions) will run into a brick wall of ~ $2 gasoline.

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    I don’t see gasoline going to $2 a gallon and if it did it will not stay there. Much of the oil price is due to a weak World economy in which demand for oil has fallen and Saudi Arabia and the US increasing production and lowering the price of oil. Refinery capacity is very limited and no new major refineries have been built since the 70’s. Long term oil prices will go up as all energy prices. Enjoy cheap gas for now, it will not last. In the long run making more efficient cars and trucks will pay for itself but the cost to make certain vehicles comply with higher standards will be harder since by their very nature they are not designed primarily for efficiency. A 4×4 high profile truck geared to haul heavy loads is not going to ever be as efficient as a low profile car with a smaller more efficient engine.

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    @cdotson–I agree, but I would go further in that if you live in a climate with snow the road chemicals will take their toll on any type of metal including aluminum. It is not just salt but beet juice and other chemicals that road crews use to treat a road with snow and ice. Many municipalities are using less salt because of the high price of salt and are mixing other chemicals with salt to make it last. It is easy for someone who lives in a climate that gets little or no snow to say that aluminum is noncorrosive. I just had an aluminum enclosed porch that was 10 years old torn down and rebuilt because it was rusting out (white rust with large holes instead of red rust). True aluminum is better than steel when it comes to corrosion but it can corrode.

    • 0 avatar
      Lou_BC

      @Jeff S – technically aluminum can not rust. Rust is the term for the oxidative process that occurs to iron. Aluminum does oxidize which is what you describe. Obviously the bolts/screws used to secure your deck where metal and you were a victim of galvanic corrosion.

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    Lou BC–True but it is a corrosive effect. Point is that aluminum is not free from the effects of weather. It wasn’t just the fasteners that made it rust but it was the arsenic treated lumber and also the coating on the aluminum was degrading. I have noticed the coating on my aluminum deck furniture deteriorating after almost 4 years. Ford is using aluminum for weight savings and not so much for its abilities to resist rust. There are many other materials that are light and resist corrosion like carbon fiber and polymers. Again don’t misunderstand me thinking I hate Ford or hate aluminum, just understand that aluminum is not the only material that is suitable for vehicle bodies nor is it new to vehicles. Technology has offered a host of new materials that were unheard of in the past and furture developments will bring newer and better materials.

    • 0 avatar
      Big Al from Oz

      @Jeff S,
      If you want to continue a “conversation” with a person you use the “Reply” icon at the base of the person’s comment. This shows what and where you are commenting.

      If there is no comment you must then follow the comment trail to the first available “Reply” icon and use it.

      The format on TTAC is different than PUTC.

  • avatar
    DenverMike

    @Jeff S – No need for PANIC!!! Aluminum car bodies and panel have been around for decades now. And on mainstream cars and trucks, like Explorers, Expeditions, Mustangs and F-150s. Not just aluminum hoods, lids and gates, but aluminum fenders too. If there was an issue with corroded aluminum on these from the elements, it would’ve grabbed national headlines. Instead, most owners of these cars don’t know they’re driving around with aluminum panels. I drove my F-150 around for 8 years, not knowing it has an aluminum hood. I found out about it right here. I can guarantee 99% of F-150 owners don’t know they have an aluminum hood. Eventually, years down the road, we’ll for get F-150s are aluminum. I’ll just be an F-150, not Hey That’s an Aluminum Truck!

    • 0 avatar
      Jeff S

      I am well aware that Jaguar, Rolls Royce,and Land Rover have been using aluminum on their bodies for years. Ford is using aluminum for weight savings and not that much to prevent corrosion. My point is that aluminum is subject to corrosion as well. To make it clear if someone is buying something just because they believe aluminum will not corrode then they are misinformed. Agree most do not know or care what the body of their vehicle is made of. GM started using aluminum on hoods and trunk lids on their downsized full size cars MY 1977 and then in MY 1978 on the intermediates. I have aluminum wheels on my S-10. There are many alternative materials to make vehicle bodies out of that are light and do not rust and each has its strengths and weaknesses.

      • 0 avatar
        highdesertcat

        Aluminum is not without its own issues. When I was a crew member on flying status in 1967, it was my job, among others, to patch the bullet holes in the skin of our AC-47. It got pretty involved and we couldn’t just pound out the dents like you do with sheet metal.

        We flew with dents and patches and when I left after a year tour, the skin looked pockmarked and all dimply where bullets had skipped off the skin without penetrating, and scabby where I had riveted patches over the holes.

        And that was the thick, tough Aircraft Grade aluminum, not the thinner, higher tensile version that has been used on cars.

        Aluminum will present its own unique issues if it becomes widely adopted in the auto industry. Right now its use is limited and repairs are confined to swapping whole panels. Expensive!

        No Bondo on aluminum!

      • 0 avatar
        DenverMike

        Lots of ancillary benefits to aluminum, even if the OEM Is stressing FE. Are bicycles sold on mpg? Aluminum baseball bats? Aluminum swap coolers?

        But if the OEM stresses the rust resistance, what are they saying about the new steel trucks remaining on the lot.

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