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Ford Rolls the Dice With Breakthrough F-150 Aluminum Pickup Truck

samzenpus posted about 8 months ago | from the shiny-new-truck dept.

Transportation 521

Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes "USA Today reports that Ford's next F-150 pickup truck will be made mostly of aluminum, instead of steel, in a bid to save weight. It will likely either be hailed as a breakthrough product to buyers who've made F-150 the bedrock of its business or one that draws comparisons to a 'rolling beer can.' The automaker has asked Alcoa, which makes aluminum blast shields for battlefield-bound vehicles, to lend some of its military-grade metal for the automaker's display, according to people familiar with Ford's plans. Ford's sales job will be considerable: The company is eager to demonstrate the toughness of aluminum, which is lighter than steel, to pickup buyers at next month's Detroit auto show. 'This is already the most significant debut at the auto show,' says Joe Langley. 'Everybody's going to be dissecting that thing for a long time, especially since Ford will be taking such a big gamble.' As a transformative product with a potentially troublesome introduction, the new F-150 has drawn comparisons with Boeing Co.'s 787 Dreamliner — an aircraft developed under the company's commercial airplane chief at the time, Alan Mulally, who in 2006 became Ford's chief executive officer. Because of the complicated switch to aluminum from steel in the F-150's body, IHS Automotive estimates Ford will need to take about six weeks of downtime at each of its two U.S. truck plants to retool and swap out robots and machinery. Ford is apparently trying to squeeze more than 700 pounds out of its next generation of pickup trucks. Using aluminum to cut weight would help meet rising fuel economy standards in the United States, which is requiring a fleetwide average of 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025."

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momkind backs into new clear options open honest (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45795209)

age of communications & commerce. 30th annv. chaos conf. in hamburg (not ny) follow it.... free the innocent stem cells....

20 year old news? (4, Informative)

Thanshin (1188877) | about 8 months ago | (#45795211)

Make it nearly 70 (5, Insightful)

dbIII (701233) | about 8 months ago | (#45795221)

Land Rover.

and the 2013 Range Rover (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45795311)

http://www.caranddriver.com/news/2013-land-rover-range-rover-photos-and-info-news

Is apparently more than 900lbs lighter. IHMO Ford aren't really trying that hard to reduce the weight.

Re:and the 2013 Range Rover (2)

Bert64 (520050) | about 8 months ago | (#45795463)

Consider that Land Rover used to be owned by Ford... Ford used Jaguar and Land Rover as a testbed for new technology, for instance the Jaguar XJ got an aluminum bodyshell in 2003, while owned by Ford.

Re:Make it nearly 70 (1, Insightful)

gandhi_2 (1108023) | about 8 months ago | (#45795427)

No one hauls a half ton of cinder bocks in a land rover.
The F150 is for work.

You must be joking (5, Informative)

dbIII (701233) | about 8 months ago | (#45795453)

No one hauls a half ton of cinder bocks in a land rover.

Of course they do. On the other hand I haven't heard of the F150 on battlefields while Land Rovers have had a lot of military use. Of course they are "for work".

Re:Make it nearly 70 (3, Informative)

Richard_at_work (517087) | about 8 months ago | (#45795523)

Uhm, the Landover is the British equivalent of the US pickup truck, you would certainly not be out of place hauling half a tonne of cinder blocks in one, or even almost a tonne of paving slabs as I did a couple months ago in my Defender...

Re:Make it nearly 70 (5, Informative)

Hall (962) | about 8 months ago | (#45795641)

In the United States, Land Rover = Range Rover and these are "upscale" SUVs here. Rich people, celebrities, etc drive them.... They're a completely different animal than the Land Rovers that my uncles and cousins have in N Ireland with rubber floor mats, vinyl seats, bench seats in the back that run lengthwise, and so on !

Re:Make it nearly 70 (2)

ThePhilips (752041) | about 8 months ago | (#45795861)

I had a relatively rich friend in the past. He has built a small country house all by himself. Most of the materials he transported on his Mercedes-Benz S600.

Now for the fun facts you probably would never hear anywhere else. The leather on the back sit wasn't even scratched. (And it took most of the beating because the trunk of sedan isn't designed for heavy weights.) The synthetic finish of the trunk proved to be highly resistant to any dirt, including chalk and cement: all was coming off after a single wash.

Re:20 year old news? (2)

Bob the Super Hamste (1152367) | about 8 months ago | (#45795339)

Production car use of aluminum body panels in production cars goes back farther than the Audi's mentioned. Look at the BMW 507 [wikipedia.org] and Mercedes Benz 300SL [wikipedia.org] which had aluminum bodies (it was an option on the 300SL) from the 1950s. While the 60s did see the aluminum engine block it also saw the BMW 3.0CSL [wikipedia.org] which had some aluminum body panels. There are probably many other old vehicles that made extensive use of aluminum that I am forgetting but it has become more common in recent years as a lower cost light weight material when compared to things like composites, which also have just as long of a history in production automotive [wikipedia.org] use.

Re:20 year old news? (4, Insightful)

alexander_686 (957440) | about 8 months ago | (#45795755)

You are kind of missing the point.

All of the examples you pointed out are for higher end performance cars. These cars are usually handled in a genital manner. I remember a story where Prince Charles got angry at Di after she sat on the hood of his car at a polo game and left a bum imprint. That is not going to cut it for a “work” truck which is constantly being banged into, sat on, having things tied on, etc.

Personally, I am trying to figure out how these things are going to get repaired. If I understand it correctly, repairing steel parts is very different than aluminum. (FYI, I know quite a few farms who take a DYI attitude towards auto repair. I don’t think they will be happy.)

Re:20 year old news? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45795831)

Genital? Bum? Banged into? Sat on? Tied on?

Now that's a good marketing strategy - sex sells!

Re:20 year old news? (5, Funny)

MisterSquid (231834) | about 8 months ago | (#45795835)

These cars are usually handled in a genital manner. I remember a story where Prince Charles got angry at Di after she sat on the hood of his car at a polo game and left a bum imprint.

I respect your anatomical specificity and historical knowledge, but just to be clear Diana's bum is not technically part of her genitals.

Re:20 year old news? (2)

Runaway1956 (1322357) | about 8 months ago | (#45795363)

http://www.bigmacktrucks.com/index.php?/topic/830-what-models-were-built-hayward/ [bigmacktrucks.com]

Double that 20 years. I drove an aluminum truck way back in 1984, which was already old and nearly worn out when I got it. I never investigated why the aluminum trucks were dropped - it probably had something to do with the company downsizing, and pulling back to Pennsylvania. During such an operation, I suppose a corporation is going to drop those parts of it's business that are perceived as "risky".

Google has plenty of images for those who are curious: https://www.google.com/search?q=mack+cruiseliner+aluminum+frame&safe=off&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ei=4YG9UqyAAai52wWf64GIDQ&ved=0CAkQ_AUoAQ&biw=1280&bih=937 [google.com]

Re:20 year old news? (1)

Bert64 (520050) | about 8 months ago | (#45795485)

It was expensive, and the weight savings were small because the panels had to be thicker to achieve a similar strength, and weight hasn't been all that important on most vehicles until recently.

Re:20 year old news? (1)

rodrigoandrade (713371) | about 8 months ago | (#45795389)

This is about FORD using aluminum, not automobiles in general.

Re:20 year old news? (4, Funny)

tompaulco (629533) | about 8 months ago | (#45795567)

Oh, it's one of THOSE things. Like, not the first HUMAN to do a feat, but the first black female human over the age of 33 and under 150 pounds with size 8 sneakers to do a feat.
Kinda sounds like "Everybody gets a trophy" day.
Anybody remember Hyundais in the 1980s? Aluminum.

Re:20 year old news? (5, Insightful)

njnnja (2833511) | about 8 months ago | (#45795841)

The F-150 is the best selling vehicle (car, truck, or suv) in North America,and has been for almost 20 years. [forbes.com] This isn't some niche manufacturer that is going to sell 50,000 units and be happy with it. Ford is expecting to sell millions of these before then can do another redesign, so if it isn't successful it's a serious problem, and therefore it's a huge risk.

Furthermore, losing 700 lbs on every one of the millions of these that are going to be sold over the next few years will do more to reduce dependency on foreign oil and co2 emissions than all of the zero emission vehicles put together. So as cool as the technology behind electric and hybrid cars is, if you want to burn less gas, you have to root for advances in truck technology such as this.

Re:20 year old news? (3, Insightful)

timeOday (582209) | about 8 months ago | (#45795815)

And Obama wasn't the first black man in the world. But he was the first one to be elected President of the United States.

This is the big time. The F-series is America's best-selling vehicle [wikipedia.org] for the last 28 consecutive years.

Audi have been doing this for years (1)

spiny (87740) | about 8 months ago | (#45795215)

and I don't think they made this much of a fuss about it.

Weight-saving (2)

darkHanzz (2579493) | about 8 months ago | (#45795227)

One could consider buying a smaller car, and only renting when you need to haul something. For most pick-up truck owners, that gives a cheaper, more comfortable ride.

Re:Weight-saving (1)

jimbobborg (128330) | about 8 months ago | (#45795253)

I have two Ford trucks and several motorcycles. The trucks come out when I need to haul stuff/take someone (like my daughter) somewhere. The bikes are for commuting. My current commute is about a 50 mile round trip. With my motorcycles, that's about a gallon of fuel a day versus 4 in my larger vehicles. Plus I'm an automatic HOV here, and the I495 Express Lanes are free for motorcycles.

Re:Weight-saving (0, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45795409)

Yeah I guess that lack of safety and painful death comes in a bit cheaper doesn't it?

Buy a beater compact, avg 45mpg. Happy middle.

No risking daughter on bike. Able to haul small items for less fuel.

But I guess you gotta keep up that image so the boys won't tease you.

Re:Weight-saving (2)

jellomizer (103300) | about 8 months ago | (#45795517)

How big is your daughter that you need a pickup truck for? I have seen a Honda Fit transport 2 average size adults and 2 very large adults, close to 1,200 lbs of people.
Kidding aside.
Most people really don't need pickup trucks, they just want them as a status symbol, they justify it to themselves that they need it, while you can get by quite well with a small call and just rent the pickup truck when you need to some extra work that day.

People who need pickup trucks are mostly Farmers and Building Contractors. The rest just want to be a person who has a truck.

Re:Weight-saving (0)

tompaulco (629533) | about 8 months ago | (#45795611)

I love it when people try to justify pickup trucks. Family, really? It has a huge empty bed in the back, making the passenger room less than a full size car. They are terrible in ice and snow thanks to not having much weight in the big empty bed. They can't haul stuff around because the big empty bed might get scratched. They get terrible gas mileage, and they are so popular that they drive up prices so that the few people who actually DO need a pickup truck for their job can't afford them.
I'd have to say I'd rather you put your daughter in the pickup truck then the motorcycle, though.

Re:Weight-saving (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45795469)

I've been bouncing the idea of a pickup truck for about 10 years. My wife wants an F150 and swears it will be our next car. Until that happens, I have a 4x8 trailer with a 1500lb capacity (I've used it for more on short trips) which I got about 10 years ago new for about $500. It costs nothing for insurance and only $8 a year in personal property taxes. I have a hitch on 2 of my cars. I use it for dirt, mulch, my ATV's, taking stuff to the garbage dump and picking up and transporting large objects materials and large stuff I buy from stores. I'd say overall it averages two uses a month minimum. I don't care about it's condition meaning I don't worry about tossing stuff in it, scratching it, using a shovel on it etc. I could not imagine myself spending $45k on a shiny new truck and taking it to the stock yard and getting a 1/2 yard of gravel dumped in it from a front loader. My trailer? Who cares.

The one I have is similar to this:
http://www.tractorsupply.com/en/store/carry-on-trailerreg%3B-5-ft-w-x-8-ft-l-specialty-single-axle-trailer-1500-lb-payload-capacity [tractorsupply.com]

I put some plywood on the deck and and on the sides.

If you have room to store one, they make great haulers.

Re:Weight-saving (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45795487)

Some people do actually have good reason to buy a pickup.

Re:Weight-saving (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45795637)

Nice try, city boy. Where I live, there are very few places where I can rent much of anything without at least a 45 minute drive each way and the logistics of getting two drivers to make it work.

And then there are issues like, that 100 cases of shotgun ammunition (it literally weighs a ton) we need for the gun club are on the loading dock at a freight terminal. We need it TODAY. Try putting that in your car or SUV.

Or, gee, wanna go hunting tomorrow morning? Well, I can't use a compact car to transport a deer carcass and two tree stands anywhere, and even if you could, you wouldn't want the bag of entrails in the car with you.

Or, we just had a lot of tree limbs come down after that storm. I'd like to cut them up and stack them for firewood.

Or, I need feed for the chickens. Let's get a bunch of feed in bulk so we don't have to keep going out there again and again.

We buy pickup trucks because they are the right tool for the job. We have a family hauler. And we have a crew-cab pickup. A more efficient pickup truck would be nice, but hopefully not too expensive. I didn't buy the one I have now for efficiency. I bought it for durability first.

Re:Audi have been doing this for years (1)

redback (15527) | about 8 months ago | (#45795229)

Lots of sports cars are fully or partially aluminium.

Name a pickup truck that is.

Re:Audi have been doing this for years (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45795285)

Audi Q7, Audi Q5, Landrover Defender

Re:Audi have been doing this for years (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45795345)

LOL. The two Audis are FRONT WHEEL DRIVE. They are tall cars, not trucks.

I'll give you the Land Rover. Hopefully, Ford learned a thing or two from the years that they owned the company.

Re:Audi have been doing this for years (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45795411)

LOL Audi is pioneer of all wheel drive. And the Q7 and Q4 have of course all wheel drive.

Re:Audi have been doing this for years (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45795495)

There's a big difference between an actual locked differential and simply using breaks on freespinning wheels.

Re:Audi have been doing this for years (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45795627)

Im pretty sure, that Audis all wheel drive is miles ahead of anything Ford has to offer: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quattro_%28four-wheel-drive_system%29

Re:Audi have been doing this for years (2)

realityimpaired (1668397) | about 8 months ago | (#45795807)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quattro_(four-wheel-drive_system) [wikipedia.org]

Audi's system delivers drive shaft energy to all 4 wheels... they aren't simply free spinning wheels.

That said, Subaru has been doing All Wheel Drive for 10 years longer than Audi. They started offering it in consumer models in 1972, while Audi didn't even introduce it to their rally cars until 1980, consumer models were a few years after that. You can still buy 2-wheel drive Audis, but all Subaru models come with AWD now, and have for almost 20 years. Both Audi Quattro ans the Subaru AWD system deliver 50:50 power distribution to front/rear (60:40 on cars with automatic), with limited slip differentials to transfer power to wheels that have traction.

They don't have locking diff, which you'd want for getting out of the bog when you're off-road, but they're great for on-road conditions, even with limited traction. I've had a Subaru of some sort for years, currently a 2011 Impreza, and it's great, especially on snow/icy roads.

Re:Audi have been doing this for years (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45795313)

As somebody else mentioned, the Land Rover has been going for about 70 years and was mainly made out of aluminium because Rover wanted more steel to produce their cars. Producing a vehicle for foreign markets was one way to get a bigger allowance of steel. They weren't that keen on selling Rovers abroad at the time, but producing an aluminium vehicle for sale abroad meant they could use the steel allowance on their Rovers...

Re:Audi have been doing this for years (1)

maroberts (15852) | about 8 months ago | (#45795851)

As somebody else mentioned, the Land Rover has been going for about 70 years and was mainly made out of aluminium because Rover wanted more steel to produce their cars. Producing a vehicle for foreign markets was one way to get a bigger allowance of steel. They weren't that keen on selling Rovers abroad at the time, but producing an aluminium vehicle for sale abroad meant they could use the steel allowance on their Rovers...

Whereas what they probably should have done is looked at making more of their Rovers out of aluminium

Re:Audi have been doing this for years (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45795237)

Audi's really known for their pickup trucks, too?

Re:Audi have been doing this for years (2)

Savage-Rabbit (308260) | about 8 months ago | (#45795435)

Audi's really known for their pickup trucks, too?

Whodathunkit, apparently Audi are playing around with the idea of building a pickup:
http://www.autoguide.com/auto-news/2011/08/audi-q7-pickup-truck-is-real-new-spy-photos.html [autoguide.com]

I think he meant cars in general, Audi has been making extensive use of aluminium in their cars [audiworld.com] for years, as have Rolls Royce, Aston Martin, Jaguar, ... Rover built an aluminium Landrover in 1948, and the American Motors Corporation did the same with their little M422 jeep back in the 50s. This is hardly news except perhaps because somebody has plucked up the courage to make a (**Grunt**) 'muscle' SUV out of Aluminium with the intention of selling it to the US public.

Re:Audi have been doing this for years (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45795559)

This is hardly news except perhaps because somebody has plucked up the courage to make a (**Grunt**) 'muscle' SUV out of Aluminium with the intention of selling it to the US public.

I agree with your general point, but then you seem to know nothing of what you speak about, as an F-150 is not an SUV, and is typically seen more on work sites than in the driveway. It is not a big surprise, as you seem to be from the UK, where they are quite uncommon.

Re:Audi have been doing this for years (1)

gerardrj (207690) | about 8 months ago | (#45795703)

The parent company (Volkswagen) is. Their pickups (and delivery type) sell quite well in the markets where they are available.

Re:Audi have been doing this for years (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45795751)

Their pickups (and delivery type) sell quite well in the markets where they are available.

That's not a compliment to the pickups, but the MBAs that we all love to hate -- it costs something to sell in new markets, after all.

Re:Audi have been doing this for years (1)

gandhi_2 (1108023) | about 8 months ago | (#45795445)

Because the demands of an audi chassis have WHAT exactly to do with the demands of a work truck chassis?

Re:Audi have been doing this for years (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45795561)

made this much of a fuss about it

Are. You. Kidding?

When Audi debuted the aluminum space frame they marketed it like *crazy*. Guessing you only recently became a yuppie-luxury-snob.

It's probably necessary (4, Interesting)

Firethorn (177587) | about 8 months ago | (#45795247)

I'll note that my truck has a synthetic 'plastic' bed, it works great, and is probably as tough as a rhinoliner coated steel bed. I'm sure it saves weight/cost.

The failure mechanics of aluminum is different than steel, but it is possible for it to be stronger for the weight. As a bonus, you shouldn't have nearly the rust problems. As usual, I'd be leery of buying the first year's model.

I'm still holding out for my strong hybrid truck though.

Re:It's probably necessary (5, Funny)

SJHillman (1966756) | about 8 months ago | (#45795365)

I'm pretty sure Ford's ability to make anything rust will transcend the laws of physics and we'll see aluminum transmute directly to iron oxide.

Re:It's probably necessary (1)

mlts (1038732) | about 8 months ago | (#45795441)

I'd like to see about a hybrid truck as well, perhaps a hybrid TDI because of the inherent fuel economy advantages of a modern diesel. As a side advantage, it can have an inverter, and be used as a generator at the jobsite -- one less piece of equipment taking space and possibly getting stolen.

F-150s tend to be grocery getters, so I can understand why Ford is going the aluminum route, since it is the best MPG savings per buck to get them better with EPA CAFE standards.

Re:It's probably necessary (2, Insightful)

Talderas (1212466) | about 8 months ago | (#45795501)

The article has things blown way out of proportion. The major customers for F-150s are not individual consumers. The major customers of the F-150 are companies that have fleets of trucks. Think companies like Home Depot or U-Haul that rent out light duty pickup trucks or companies like Union Pacific or BNSF that mount railwheels on their trucks so that they have a way to get vehicles, people, and material out to remote areas.

The big advantage in aluminum is the reduced weight and consequent fuel savings. It's not going to make one lick of difference to Home Depot or U-Haul because their customers pay the fuel costs so they're go with whichever company is producing the cheapest trucks. Companies like UP or BNSF are going to care about the weight because they have a huge fleet and the fuel savings can be huge. However those companies also are far more reliant on after-production upfitting to make the trucks work for them so the question is how will the aluminum affect that after production work?

As an example of how cutthroat the fleet business can be.... GM already screwed up by releasing the 2014 (or is it 2015) model light duty trucks later than Ford or Chrysler. Most of those fleet companies have jumped to Ford or Chrysler which are delivering the newest models earlier.

So Ford is definitely taking a risk. The can easily tank the sales for the F150 model year they convert to aluminum if the fleets don't stick with Fords.

Re:It's probably necessary (1)

the eric conspiracy (20178) | about 8 months ago | (#45795597)

My father was a metallurgist and head of a large technical organization within the DOD that had responsibility for the materials used by the US Army in all of it's equipment. From helicopter blades, to gun tubes and missile combustion chambers. He was on the design review committee for the Saturn V F1 engine.

He was heard saying more that once "If it don't rust it's no damn good".

He was referring to ceramics at the time, but it could apply to aluminum.

It's probably not risky... (3, Insightful)

rmdingler (1955220) | about 8 months ago | (#45795251)

Most people care more about the status symbol of the new shiney, but I wouldn't be surprised to see it used in a series of Dodge/Chevy ads. "Silverado, tough as steel" or some such.

Re:It's probably not risky... (1)

SJHillman (1966756) | about 8 months ago | (#45795371)

Or Chevy will finally take their slogan literally and built a pickup out of rocks.

Re:It's probably not risky... (2)

rmdingler (1955220) | about 8 months ago | (#45795529)

And Ford collisions with mercury will take on a whole new meaning.

Old news (2)

Bob the Super Hamste (1152367) | about 8 months ago | (#45795267)

While other manufactures have made aluminum for vehicles for a while even this is an old story. Ford announced [wsj.com] over a year ago [slashdot.org] that the next gen F150 was going to be aluminum. The previous announcement stated that it would add about $1500 to the cost of materials. Also this isn't ford's first time working with aluminum bodied vehicles as they have previously experimented with aluminum bodied Tauruses as well as producing aluminum bodied Jaguars.

Re:Old news (2)

Talderas (1212466) | about 8 months ago | (#45795549)

The trucks Home Depot rents out are Ford F-150s. The major advantage to the aluminum F-150 is going to be fuel savings which I believe Home Depot holds their renters liable for fuel costs. I'm predicting that Home Depot will not order the F-150 light duty truck for that model year and instead go with either GM or Chrysler because I'm quite certain that the $1,500 cost increase will make the other two brands more cost-effective.

Corrosion resistance (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45795271)

Galvanic corrosion. I'm interested in how they are handling that with so many steel aluminum interfaces.

Aluminum shortage? (1)

Harald Paulsen (621759) | about 8 months ago | (#45795273)

Wasn't there talk of an aluminum shortage earlier this year?

Or was it just speculation that Goldman Sachs tried to create a shortage to increase prices?

Re:Aluminum shortage? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45795297)

Wasn't there talk of an aluminum shortage earlier this year?

Aluminum shortage? Seems unlikely. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bauxite#Production_trends

Re:Aluminum shortage? (4, Informative)

Bob the Super Hamste (1152367) | about 8 months ago | (#45795361)

Not speculation by Goldman Sachs but a little scam [nytimes.com] that they figured out how to do.

Re:Aluminum shortage? (1)

Bob the Super Hamste (1152367) | about 8 months ago | (#45795383)

Early morning typo the "not" should be "no"

Body on Frame (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45795367)

True pickups are body on frame rather than unibody. "Toughness" isn't going to be a problem. And certainly critical components (A- B- C-pillars) won't be aluminium -- the trend is towards ultra-high-strength steels. And Ford is experienced with aluminium anyway; they already use a lot of aluminium for things like hoods and liftgates and such. Not to mention they probably still have all of the Jaguar IP for welding, riveting, and clinching aluminum.

A six week downtime is a bitch, but spot welding aluminium is kind of a bitch, too, and so there are probably going to be a lot of changes in the body manufacturing facilities.

Achieving 18 mpg in my Expedition (not a daily driver, by the way) is going to seem pretty low after the new F150 comes out, I suppose. Pity we can't get an aluminium Expedition.

Re:Body on Frame (1)

aitikin (909209) | about 8 months ago | (#45795405)

...they probably still have all of the Jaguar IP for welding, riveting, and clinching aluminum.

I would assume that that IP was sold with Jaguar to Tata some 5 years ago now (source [autoblog.com] ). Sure, they probably can license that IP pretty easily (as I recall, the deal had Ford still doing a bunch of R&D for Jaguar and Land Rover), but saying that they have all of the IP would be misleading.

The marketing wars begin (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45795387)

(Swarthy guy in faded work clothes with a country accent): A lot of the use I have for my truck happens off the highway, and if it crumples when it hits a rock that just isn't going to work. That's why I went with [Ford competitor] this time. Their new [model] has [new features] and is still built with steel the old-fashioned way.

Driveline (1, Informative)

Charliemopps (1157495) | about 8 months ago | (#45795401)

This will work fine. The issues will arise in the driveline. Specifically the rear axle. Clearly gears, diff and drive shaft will still be steel aloy. But if they try for an aluminum pumpkin and axle tubes it's going to fail. The frame isn't a big deal because they can beef that up as much as they want and the load is fairly predictable (strait down) But lots of people have tried aluminum rear axles and they just don't work in the kind of conditions a work truck operates under.

Re:Driveline (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45795587)

I highly doubt Ford is using Al for anything in the driveline of a truck to begin with, where did you hear that? All they're talking about right now is exterior body panels, and some of the subframes and bracing in the chassis. Even the main frame rails (much less the drivetrain) will still be steel :P

Re:Driveline (1)

jabuzz (182671) | about 8 months ago | (#45795801)

Plenty of sports cars have carbon fibre drive shafts however.

And I Will Stop Buying... (3, Interesting)

deKernel (65640) | about 8 months ago | (#45795415)

I can tell that both the designers and people who think this is a great idea don't actually use a pickup for a living. I use a pickup on a ranch, and I use it HARD so that is where I am coming from. The new pickups in the last 10 years just don't last anymore because they are making them lighter and more economical to drive, and they just can't take the abuse that workers put them through on a daily bases.

Re:And I Will Stop Buying... (2)

some old guy (674482) | about 8 months ago | (#45795457)

Same thing with the model changes to the Jeep Wrangler line after the YJ.

All frou-frou and techie-wechie, but no guts.

Comfort, style, and economy are not the primary design goals in a working vehicle.

Unless you're a marketing creep.

Re:And I Will Stop Buying... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45795459)

I can tell that both the designers and people who think this is a great idea don't actually use a pickup for a living. I use a pickup on a ranch, and I use it HARD so that is where I am coming from. The new pickups in the last 10 years just don't last anymore because they are making them lighter and more economical to drive, and they just can't take the abuse that workers put them through on a daily bases.

Agreed. Bought a 1993 Silverado and can't believe how simple it is compared to something new. Engine, transmission, tires. Hopefully I can make it last forever.

Re:And I Will Stop Buying... (1)

MechanicJay (1206650) | about 8 months ago | (#45795479)

Yes, in the effort to make trucks more economical, they've really engineered out a of ruggedness. I can flex a body panel on any new truck by leaning on it. I can lean hundreds of pounds against my '81 Ford with no visible deflection in the panel. Its possible this is a way to actually address these concerns of people who use trucks have. Can we make things stronger and lighter at the same time? I'm cautiously optimistic that this won't suck and will actually make the trucks better.

Re:And I Will Stop Buying... (1)

mulvane (692631) | about 8 months ago | (#45795519)

I'm just hoping they don't do this with 3/4 and 1 ton pickups and SUVs. I agree with you, I need a pickup to work and haul. Sure, Al can be used in some places to lighten load, but when you start looking at the frame, you are weakening the overall strength...Got, imagine grade 8 bolts made out of Al.

Re:And I Will Stop Buying... (1)

Michael Casavant (2876793) | about 8 months ago | (#45795623)

Fuel economy and price aren't the only concerns here. You may like the fact that your old Ford has tank armor for body panels when you lean against them, but you wouldn't want them in a crash. Those era vehicles, all the way until the mid 90's, where death-on-wheels. Now a days to meet crash specs a vehicle needs to be soft, lots of crumple zones. And body panels contribute to that.

What's funny is that modern sports cars use the same design theory and are generally considered to be better than ever. Sure, they weigh more and a larger, but the chassis are the stiffest they've ever been allowing for incredible consistency. Put a roll cage in an older car (70's, 80's, 90's) and you'll see how much flex there is in the chassis. Put a roll cage in a new car and your jaw will drop, there is so little flex in the new cars....all while being safer than ever.

All that being said, this has got to be a boon for people in the rust belt...

Re:And I Will Stop Buying... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45795631)

Can we make things stronger and lighter at the same time?

Steel is very close to a durability ideal (at human survivable temperatures, if mixed properly for the purpose, even more when allowed to age, more disclaimering that I don't care to type), so with the same geometry, you can't beat well prepared steel. The aging part is also a factor of why older cars are tougher than modern ones, a full steel car fresh off the assembly line will be more fragile than a 50 year old steel car that has not been rusted away.

So, if you want a new, light car to be as durable as an old steel car, you need to come up with a new way to sculpt it so all the forces you apply to the vehicle are matched against the strengths of the lighter material rather than crushing the weaknesses. If you do find such a truck-iversal design that lets you make a durable vehicle out of fragile parts, you can make a lot of money.

Re:And I Will Stop Buying... (1)

tompaulco (629533) | about 8 months ago | (#45795691)

Yes, in the effort to make trucks more economical, they've really engineered out a of ruggedness.

By economical, I hope you mean generating more economy for the dealers and manufacturers, because the price of trucks has skyrocketed since they started turning into powder puff vehicles. The increase in cost of pickup trucks is double that of other autos, which in itself is already outpacing inflation significantly.

Re:And I Will Stop Buying... (1)

wisnoskij (1206448) | about 8 months ago | (#45795513)

Sounds like you need a vehicle that is not designed for perfectly flat straight roads.
They exist, they are just not F150s.

Re:And I Will Stop Buying... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45795533)

I can tell that both the designers and people who think this is a great idea don't actually use a pickup for a living. I use a pickup on a ranch, and I use it HARD so that is where I am coming from. The new pickups in the last 10 years just don't last anymore because they are making them lighter and more economical to drive, and they just can't take the abuse that workers put them through on a daily bases.

You are correct, sir.

Most of the people I see driving pickup trucks now are the urban cowboys/cowgirl types with stickers all over the windows making a big deal that they're driving a truck. Meanwhile, auto rags (like Consumer Reports) take huge issue with trucks like the F150 and the now deceased Ranger for "not being very car-like".

Trucks have been getting softer and softer to cater to a segment of population who IMHO has no business driving them.

Re:And I Will Stop Buying... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45795639)

The problem is, most pick-up truck drivers don't use them the same way you do. They drive them on freeways to commute to a desk job from their suburban cookie cutter house. This messes up the manufacturers gas mileage average.

It might be time for you to upgrade (5, Insightful)

damn_registrars (1103043) | about 8 months ago | (#45795673)

I can tell that both the designers and people who think this is a great idea don't actually use a pickup for a living. I use a pickup on a ranch, and I use it HARD so that is where I am coming from. The new pickups in the last 10 years just don't last anymore because they are making them lighter and more economical to drive, and they just can't take the abuse that workers put them through on a daily bases.

Independent studies place the F150 basically equal (depending on which metric) in durability with the Silverado 1500 and Ram 1500. If you are wearing out your trucks it might be time you look in to the 250 (or higher) series. The 150 series trucks from each of the manufacturers are designed to match their usual working demands - most people who buy them live in the city and drive them mostly on the road. The most common cargo (in this country especially) in the bed of a pickup is air.

The 150 trucks are designed mostly for the urban handyman who occasionally pulls around and launches his own fishing boat on the weekend. They're good trucks but don't try to overstate their purpose.

Re:And I Will Stop Buying... (5, Insightful)

thesandbender (911391) | about 8 months ago | (#45795727)

Aluminum is a perfectly sound material as long as it's used correctly. It's been used in aircraft, rockets and other vehicles that take stresses far beyond what you will ever do to your truck. Flying may seem like it doesn't generate much stress but the loads on a 747 or A380 when they are landing are tremendous. The regular compression/decompression cycles that a plane goes through when going from ground level to altitude are also impressive when you look at the numbers. The fact that we consider it so commonplace is a testimony to how durable aluminum is. The average person is shocked when they see the thickness of the tubing used in bicycles, including downhill mountain bikes which take one hell of a beating.

But this is all contingent on how the aluminum is employed. If they have good, experienced engineers then this can only end well (I'd love to have a truck that didn't rust).

So what exactly is the mileage after this? (2)

tlambert (566799) | about 8 months ago | (#45795433)

So what exactly is the mileage after this?

Re:So what exactly is the mileage after this? (1)

jellomizer (103300) | about 8 months ago | (#45795565)

Less than the current mileage. If you stay vague no one will say that you are a lair. Once you get into details and you are off even by the most minute amount people will be out for your head.

Re:So what exactly is the mileage after this? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45795573)

The upcoming F-150 will push Ford's pickups closer to a 30 mpg highway rating

Read more: http://www.autonews.com/article/20131223/OEM04/312239954/ford-rolls-dice-with-aluminum-f-150#ixzz2ogVVCODu

Re:So what exactly is the mileage after this? (1)

tompaulco (629533) | about 8 months ago | (#45795707)

Well, they save 900 pounds of rolling weight, so the increase in gas mileage is probably...a rounding error. Besides they will probably add 100 pounds worth of more plastic crap, Corinthian leather, baubles, bangles, chiffon, cupholders, and now, introducing, a makeup station at every seat, complete with lipstick holders and a personal rearview mirror!

A win for rust protection! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45795443)

Where I come from (New England), this is huge news. Rust is a huge problem, what with the salt mafia pickle-ing our roads every week. I have gone through two Toyota pickups that have rusted to death. Bring on the Aluminum!

Re:A win for rust protection! (2)

hey! (33014) | about 8 months ago | (#45795857)

Aluminum *does* corrode. In most situations the oxides form a stable protective layer, but in situations where aluminum is in contact with dissimilar metal you can get galvanic action and the less noble [wikipedia.org] metal will corrode. There's also a phenomenon called stress corrosion cracking [wikipedia.org] where a metal in a corrosive environment can fail catastrophically after being repeatedly exposed to stress.

So a piece of structural aluminum near a fastener in a salty environment isn't safe from corrosion failure. Naturally I'd assume Ford is on top of this, and you'd have nothing to fear from your new aluminum truck. How safe it would be after a ten or fifteen years of being driven hard over New England roads is something that I wouldn't be altogether sure of. Again I'm sure the engineers have taken this into account, engineers are fallible so we'll have to wait and see.

Steel really is an amazing material, both strong and tough. It tends to fail in benign ways (bending rather than breaking), which also contributes to the safety of a steel vehicle. When steel is damaged it is easy to repair. My wife has had a couple incidents with her car and a certain steel beam in the garage at work. When it happens we replace the passenger side doors and have our mechanic beat the door pillar back into shape with big hammer. I'm not sure an aluminum vehicle could be repaired this way.

So as a geek I'm delighted Ford is trying something new. But there are good reasons nobody's attempted this before. I'm hoping it's a brilliant success, but we won't be sure until the vehicles have been on the road for a few years.

Good! (1)

anmre (2956771) | about 8 months ago | (#45795481)

The less weight means less momentum. Can't count how many times I've been tailgated by some a-hole "country boy" who thinks he owns the road just because he can shine his headlights directly into your rear-view mirror. Guys who drive these trucks are menaces.

Yeah, I'm generalizing.

A little extra weight savings (1)

VernonNemitz (581327) | about 8 months ago | (#45795483)

The truck should be made available in an "unpainted" version. Remember the main reason for paint on steel-bodied cars is rust-prevention, but aluminum is strongly resistant to rust in most places (probably not close to an ocean, however), and should not need either the paint job or the associated weight of dried paint.

Re:A little extra weight savings (2)

some old guy (674482) | about 8 months ago | (#45795521)

Seeing as how rust per se is the oxidation of iron, it's a pretty safe bet that all aluminum is pretty rust-resistant.

Pedantic, yeah. But I'm an engineer.

Re:A little extra weight savings (1)

oodaloop (1229816) | about 8 months ago | (#45795681)

While we're neing pedantic, Dictionary.com's defintion of rust is:

a: the reddish brittle coating formed on iron especially when chemically attacked by moist air and composed essentially of hydrated ferric oxide

b: a comparable coating produced on a metal other than iron by corrosion

So yeah, alimunium rusts but it's not iron oxide. (Though I love someone else's joke about how Ford will find a way to turn aluminum into iron oxide. Classic.)

Re:A little extra weight savings (1)

tompaulco (629533) | about 8 months ago | (#45795767)

I was told in science class that the reason aluminum doesn't rust (okay, OXIDIZE) is that it actually oxidizes almost immediately on the outer layer and forms a layer to thick for further oxidation to occur.
But, as GP said, a polished aluminum look would look sharp, and save the weight of paint too. Remember the old American Airlines polished aluminum planes? They looked awesome. Not sure why they changed. The paint on a plane can weigh half a ton, and on a plane, weight is much more a factor in fuel than it is for a car.

Is this really "rolling the dice"? (4, Insightful)

damn_registrars (1103043) | about 8 months ago | (#45795583)

They didn't just have one guy say "hey, let's switch everything over to aluminum and see what happens". They had engineers work on it, they reviewed the costs, forecasted the risks and expected benefits, etc. They know what they are doing. There is little if anything left to chance on this. Most likely they did a number of aluminum prototypes and ran them around on the proving grounds with aluminum versions of existing body panels so as to not draw additional attention.

Big companies like Ford don't just do things like this on a whim, they can't afford to. The American car companies still have the black eye of their quality problems from the 80s and 90s; they are one misstep away from corporate ruin. While the F150 is still the top selling vehicle on the planet, they can't afford to take it for granted or to leave its fate to chance.

Most popular vehicle? Wow... (3, Insightful)

Paul Jakma (2677) | about 8 months ago | (#45795585)

That's just staggering, that this is the most popular vehicle in the USA. It's about the same size/weight as a European 8-seater minibus [mercedes-benz.co.uk] ! And this isn't at all the biggest Ford sell, is it? I've seen things on the motorway there that are almost bus sized.

Try getting body work done. (1)

gelfling (6534) | about 8 months ago | (#45795603)

It's impossible. Great for dealerships though as you will be required to have all the 'work' done by them, and by 'work' we mean large scale replacement of body panels replete with specialized welding equipment that none of the slacktards know how to use.

Re:Try getting body work done. (2)

dave-man (119245) | about 8 months ago | (#45795675)

Lots of people know how to weld aluminum. It isn't hard at all. Joe shade-tree with a buzz welder will need to buy a TIG welder and a book.

Now Ford will end with the... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45795689)

...well known aluminum car dilemma: The car is so solid that the customer simply do not need another one for the next 30 years.

Great news for the metal "salvage" crowd (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45795739)

I can just see you parking your truck overnight in, say, NYC only to find it stripped of the body panels in the morning....

You all don't understand the magnitude of this (1)

jayhawk88 (160512) | about 8 months ago | (#45795757)

This is going to play in the midwest about as well as if the government suddenly decided to outlaw beef. F-150's/Silverado's/Sierra's/Ram's are basically standard issue for men aged 18-55 in the midwest, and the commercials are right, F-150's dominate. Chevy/GMC/Dodge are going to have a field day with this.

The fact that Ford is jumping into this with the F-150 too, and not testing it out on a lesser model first, is just staggering.

Beta sucks (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45795783)

Slashdot, stop switching to the interface to Beta for an hour every once in a while.

This is worse than Digg 2.0. When you get done jumping the shark, say hello to the Fonz for me.

still addicted to spontaneous combustion in 2025? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#45795833)

that's the craziest plan ever? free the innocent stem cells. consider ourselves in relation to momkind our spiritual centerpeace & strive to be non-combustible as soon as possible.... drive the the solar magnet powered star cars.... 54,000 mpcc is doable today?

A Lot of Potential (1)

trongey (21550) | about 8 months ago | (#45795867)

If it's done right (probably not) this is what trucks need to be. Rust is one of the biggest killers of working trucks so a well-built aluminum truck would be a godsend.
But as Firethorn said, skip the .0 version.

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