At the 2015 Automotive News Congress in Detroit, Ford America President Joseph Hinrichs said that despite the successes of the aluminum-bodied F-150, his company won’t lean on the material to boost the fuel efficiency of its passenger cars.
“One of the big benefits you get from lightweighting on trucks is you give customers more capability that they want,” he explained. “You can tow more, you can haul more, you can do more of those things by taking the weight out.”
“You don’t get those same benefits to a consumer on a car side,” he continued. “So truck buyers will pay for more capability. Car buyers will pay for better fuel economy, but there’s other ways to get fuel economy in a car.”
Ford’s EcoBoost engines, aerodynamic designs, and active grill shutter technology have made some headway the efficiency department, but considering the F-150’s 700-pound weight savings, you may find it odd that the company is putting aluminum-bodied cars on the backburner for now.
The reason, however, is simple: volume.
The F-150 is the manufacturer’s best-selling vehicle by far, and it’s been the most popular pickup in America for over 40 years. It’s actually the best-selling vehicle in the U.S. period, and it has been for over three decades.
The truck’s high sales allow Ford to mitigate the high price of military-grade alloys, and that’s simply not the case with cars like the Mustang or Fusion. “There’s a lot of costs associated with aluminum,” Hinrichs said, but the automaker isn’t giving up on the material as an option altogether.
Ford’s newest pony car employs a steel unibody design, yes, but it does use aluminum components on the fenders and hood. The newly-unveiled Ford GT supercar is constructed around a carbon fiber passenger shell, but the front and rear sub-frames are aluminum.
“If the industry can find ways to reduce costs, then there’s a point in the future where we’ll see more aluminum in more standard vehicles,” Hinrichs said.
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