Ford aluminum truck beds prove haters wrong, are cheaper to repair than steel

Ford F-150 Limited 2019When a redesigned Ford F-150 pickup truck arrived in late 2014 with aluminum bodywork, it prompted attacks from rivals and concerns from truck buyers. One of the biggest questions was whether aluminum, which had previously been used mostly in low-volume luxury and sports cars, would make the F-150 more expensive to repair than competitor trucks. According to Automotive News, the opposite is true: The aluminum F-150 bed is proving cheaper to repair than traditional steel beds.

Aluminum is lighter than steel, which is why Ford used it in the F-150. The automaker estimates that aluminum bodywork saves around 700 pounds over steel, which helps improve fuel economy. But aluminum also generally costs more than steel, and is more susceptible to damage. If the F-150 proved less durable, and more expensive to repair, than rival trucks, Ford would have been in trouble.

So far, that doesn’t seem to be a problem. The Highway Loss Data Institute, a unit of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) that tracks insurance-related costs for vehicles, found that collision claim severity for the aluminum F-150 is 7% lower than on the truck’s steel-bodied predecessor. But because the frequency of collision claims has risen 7%, there is no overall change.

In other areas, Highway Loss Data Institute data shows a clearer advantage for the aluminum truck. A redesign of the front fenders cut replacement time by six or seven hours, for example. The Highway Loss Data Institute also found that total parts cost for 2015 and 2016 F-150s (the first two model years for the aluminum version) was 16% lower than the steel-bodied 2014 F-150. Hoods and tailgates are 43% cheaper, while front bumpers are 37% cheaper. However, Rear bumpers and bedsides cost more than the 2014-model year steel parts, according to the Highway Loss Data Institute.

When it launched the aluminum F-150, Ford undertook a major effort to train dealers to work on the truck, and that’s also contributing to lower repair costs, Automotive News reported. Dealers did have to spend $30,000 to $50,000 on new equipment, although they were able to get a $10,000 rebate from Ford. That included a rubberized curtain to separate aluminum repair work from any nearby steel. Aluminum dust can ignite and explode if cross contaminated with steel dust, according to Automotive News.

Despite the added upfront cost and risk of explosions, the aluminum F-150 has worked out pretty well for Ford’s dealers, according to Automotive News. Bob Tomes, a Ford dealer in Texas, told the publication that the F-150’s repair-friendly design, and the training provided by Ford, has sped up repair work and lowered costs by as much as $2,000 over similarly-damaged steel trucks.

Ford’s Detroit rivals are also embracing aluminum for trucks, albeit not to the same extent as the Blue Oval. The Ram 1500 features some aluminum components, including a tailgate, but most of the bodywork is steel. Instead, Ram is using a mild hybrid powertrain as its primary fuel saver. The Chevrolet Silverado 1500 features an aluminum hood, tailgate, and doors, but the fenders, roof, and bed are steel. The Chevy’s GMC Sierra 1500 twin features a similar mix of materials, but with an optional carbon fiber pickup box.

Cars

Discover the engineering Easter eggs in the new 2020 Ford Explorer

The 2020 Ford Explorer received a ground-up overhaul, with major changes that include a new hybrid powertrain option. But even the engineering details of the new Explorer are worth checking out.
Computing

A dead pixel doesn't mean a dead display. Here's how to repair it

Dead pixel got you down? We don't blame you. Check out our guide on how to fix a dead pixel and save yourself that costly screen replacement or an unwanted trip to your local repair shop.
Deals

Pick up the Beats Solo 3 for $120 less on Amazon and keep the music going

If you missed out on Amazon's sale that dropped the full price of the Beats Solo 3 from $300 down to $150, now is your chance to pick up the beat with your very own pair for $120 less. 
Cars

Camaro vs. Mustang: Differences and similarities between two premier pony cars

The Chevrolet Camaro and the Ford Mustang are two of America's favorite sports cars. In this comparison piece, we highlight the main differences between the two machines when it comes to their design and performance, among other factors.
News

UPS partners with TuSimple to test self-driving semi-trucks

UPS has been carrying truckloads of goods in self-driving semi-trucks since May. The vehicles are being tested in Arizona routes between Phoenix and Tucson for better service and efficiency for UPS delivery.
Cars

Vintage Electric readies the Roadster Speed Merchant, a souped-up ebike

Vintage Electric introduced the latest in its line of retro-styled premium performance ebikes for fall 2019. The Vintage Roadster gets styling cues from board track racing motorcycles and its power from a 1,123-watt battery.
Cars

Infiniti’s Formula One-inspired Project Black S may enter production

The Infiniti Project Black S is a Q60 luxury coupe enhanced with a Formula One-inspired hybrid powertrain. The 563-horsepower car can sprint from zero to 62 mph in under four seconds, according to Infiniti.
Cars

Bored with stock? The best tuner cars are begging to be modified

Modification has been around almost as long as the automobile itself. Here are some of the best tuner cars you can find, ranging from American muscle standouts to Japanese drift cars.
Cars

Toyota raises the curtain on 2020 Corolla Nightshade Editions

The 2020 Toyota Corolla SE sedan and hatchback with a CVT (continuously variable transmission) will be available in Nightshade Editions, joining the Toyota 4Runner, Camry, Highlander, and Sienna with the blacked-out trim style option.
Cars

Here’s why your Uber or Lyft car always seems to be a Toyota Camry

The Toyota Camry is one of the most popular cars sold in the United States, and not just with retail buyers. Uber and Lyft drivers love the Camry for its reliability, according to a new report.
Cars

The electric Volkswagen ID Buggy makes even Ferrari drivers stop and stare

Volkswagen traveled to the 2019 Geneva Auto Show to introduce an electric dune buggy named ID Buggy, and Digital Trends drove it in California. It's a modern-day tribute to the 1960s Meyers Manx.
Cars

Infiniti will take on BMW and Mercedes-Benz with its own crossover coupe

Launching in 2020, the Infiniti QX55 will be a crossover coupe similar to models that have proven successful for BMW and Mercedes-Benz. Infiniti said the QX55 will have styling influenced by its early 2000s FX.
Cars

Limited-edition Subaru BRZ tS returns for 2020, WRX and STI get minor tweaks

Subaru performance cars remain mostly unchanged for the 2020 model year. The big news is the return of the limited-edition Subaru BRZ tS sports car, with production capped at 300 units.
Cars

The Bugatti Centodieci is only possible because of the latest design tech

Bugatti is celebrating its 110th birthday by releasing a limited-edition hypercar named Centodieci. It's based on the Chiron, but its engine makes 1,600 horsepower, and it's a tribute to the EB110 released during the 1990s.