Will aluminum body panels become a relic of an experimental past or redefine how automakers build cars?
The new Ford F-150 uses the alloy extensively and is receiving accolades for its innovation. People were cautious, even full of ridicule, before the truck hit the market. Comments like, “The new F-150 will be as tough as a beer can,” circulated through the online world.
Now automakers are eating their words and realizing that the use of aluminum in cars is probably not going away.
The big question is: Do the weight savings translate to enough money saved to justify the costly repairs to aluminum?
One auto website took a sledgehammer to the rear quarter of a new F-150 to test how easily it could be repaired. What they neglected to research was the fact that Ford has certified body shops, and if a non-certified shop does the repairs, costs will be extreme.
The article at Yahoo said,
But aluminum is a more finicky material to work with than steel, and to fix damage after a fender bender requires special tools and training. As more automakers embrace aluminum, consumers will face the challenge of finding repair shops qualified to work on the alloy.
Ford has gone to great lengths to train and certify its dealers and affiliated body shops to perform necessary repairs. Such shops are easy to find on the dealer locator at Ford.com.
Audi, Tesla, Mercedes-Benz, Jaguar, Land Rover, and more are beginning to embrace aluminum, and it won’t be long before other mass-market cars use the material. Costs to make repairs will come down as more of the metal enters the market.
A website advocating for the use of aluminum says,
Aluminum is already the dominant material used to make engines and wheels, thanks to the metal’s performance, durability and environmental advantages. Automakers are now aggressively applying today’s advanced aluminum alloys and designs to hoods, trunks and doors as part of a holistic approach to reducing vehicle weight to boost fuel economy (and hybrid battery range) and cut the emissions associated with climate change.
I predict Ram and Chevrolet will soon debut aluminum-bodied pickups and the use of steel will fade into the past.
Will you buy a truck made with an aluminum body?