The 2014 Ford F-150 Is A Game-Changer For Repairers And Recyclers

The 2014 Ford F-150 has been making the rounds at auto shows across the United States, including causing a big splash at the 2014 North American Auto Show in Detroit, Mich. where it was unveiled on January 18. That’s because the all-new Ford F-150 has been redesigned and manufactured with a high-strength steel frame and aluminum sheet metal.

“F-150 is well-known for being Built Ford Tough. Now, it is both tough and smart,” said Mark Fields, Ford Motor Company chief operating officer. “The all-new F-150 redefines the future of trucks, and it is yet another example of our One Ford plan producing vehicles that serve customers with a commitment to the very best quality, fuel efficiency, safety, smart design and value.”

Ford engineers improved the truck’s signature fully-boxed ladder frame. It is all-new with more high-strength steel that is rated up to 70,000 psi and, according to Ford, is stronger than the steel found in some competitors’ heavy-duty pickup frames. The high-strength, military-grade, aluminum alloys - already used in aerospace, commercial transportation, energy and many other rugged industries - are said to improve dent and ding resistance while also saving weight. Overall, up to 700 pounds of weight has been saved.

But what does this mean for auto repairers and auto recyclers? Aluminum is significantly more expensive than steel and it is also trickier to repair. It has previously been used mainly in luxury vehicles and some repair businesses may not have even had the chance to work on them yet. But, as America’s best-selling truck for 37 consecutive years, these new F-150’s will begin to appear in more shops shortly after they go on sale.

Repairer Concerns

FenderBender ( published an article in January 2013 about aluminum’s unique characteristics that require advanced repair techniques and methods, which means upgrades in training and equipment for shops. The article suggested installing a clean room dedicated to just aluminum work to avoid cross contamination from other metals, like steel. The article’s expert stated that iron oxides in the air can cause corrosion and lead to adhesion and paint failures. Even worse is the possibility of a thermite reaction between iron oxide and aluminum, the two main components of thermite bombs.

The good news is that the Detroit Free Press reported that Ford will assist dealers and owners of body shops in order to replace and repair damaged aluminum panels at a competitive cost. This was announced by Ford at the National Automotive Dealers Association (NADA) annual convention in New Orleans, La.

Ford told dealers the automaker would subsidize 20 percent (up to $10,000) for training and equipment needed to repair the new truck’s aluminum body panels. The subsidies, in addition to engineering to make the truck easier to repair, are aimed at keeping repair costs low and insurance premiums competitive with trucks made of steel. The article noted that the cost of training, tooling and certification is expected to be in the $30,000 to $50,000 range per dealership for those starting from scratch. Ford said certification involves an online course and two full days in a classroom. Additional courses will be offered in partnership with I-CAR, which offers technical training to the collision industry.

Recycler Opportunities

The Automotive Recyclers Association (ARA) recently posted an article dedicated to the recycler’s use of aluminum. Currently, automotive recyclers scrap or resell both dirty and clean aluminum. Clean aluminum comes from wheels, engine blocks and transmission cases. Dirty aluminum has been painted or coated. The 2015 Ford F-150 will be made up of all dirty aluminum sheet metal. Currently anything sheet metal is assumed to be steel. The article noted that even if an aluminum hood or trunk lid is found in the yard, consumers can still buy it at the steel price, which is considerably lower.

ARA’s article noted that the price differential between aluminum scrap and steel scrap is $1,500 per ton versus $290 a ton for sheet metal and $490 a ton for shredded auto scrap. By the same ration, a $50 steel door could be priced at $200.

If the F-150’s can be expected in repair shops right after the trucks go on sale later this year, it’s probable that these vehicles will also be in auto recyclers’ yards. But, because of aluminum is naturally rust-resistant, the needs for rust repair is reduced which will increase the truck’s lifespan, recyclers might not see them until the repairs to the powertrain and running gears become too expensive.

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