Ford to cut weight with aluminum panels in new F-150

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2012 Ford F-150 photographed in Montreal, Quebec, Canada at the 2012 Montreal International Auto Show.

In 2014, Ford F-150 pickups will include more aluminum panels. (Photo Credit: Public Domain/Bull-Doser/Wikipedia)

The push for shiny new gas-saving technology has brought Ford Motor Co. to the brink of embracing lucky number 13. That’s atomic number 13, and the element is the aluminum. According to the Detroit Free Press, Ford will make “extensive use” of weight-saving aluminum panels to replace the standard steel panels used in Ford F-150 pickups.

Ford: Aluminum tough since 2014

In July 2014, Ford will reveal a new generation of F-150 pickup that will depend upon increased amounts of aluminum construction in order to save weight. This translates into greater fuel efficiency and gas savings, but it will increase vehicle sticker price, notes Richard Schultz, managing director of market research firm and consultancy Ducker Worldwide. The Wall Street Journal reported Thursday that the automaker expects to cut as much as 700 pounds from the overall weight of its new F-150 models.

Slimming down a big moneymaker

The Ford F-Series pickups are Ford’s top grossing product worldwide, and the top-selling consumer vehicle of any type in the U.S. for the past 30 years. Thus, experts view drastic changes like aluminum panels to be a potential risk to a formula that isn’t broken. Yet the demands of tougher fuel economy standards loom.

“We’re constantly looking at multiple ways to improve our cars and our trucks,” said Ford’s Truck Communications Manager, Mike Levine.

The F-150 has had an aluminum hood since 2004, however. Ford and its competition have been working at using more aluminum in body construction for years. By 2025, Ford expects that the total percentage of steel in the body of an F-150 pickup will decrease to 46 percent by 2025, while aluminum will double in cars and triple in trucks. Currently, a Ford F-150’s total vehicular weight comes 57 percent from steel and 8 percent aluminum in a car.

“There’s no question that Ford and its rivals are running (aluminum-intensive pickup) prototypes,” says David Cole of the Center for Auto Research. “They all are moving in that direction.”

Joining the luxury set

For much longer, makes of luxury vehicles have used aluminum body panels for their light weight. Once a vehicle is lighter in the body, a smaller engine can be used to power the vehicle, brakes and other components. All of this adds to fuel savings, but a 700 pound deduction in weight can add as much as $1,500 to a pickup’s cost. Fuel savings typically reach about 8 percent, said Schultz.

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Detroit Free Press

USA Today

Wall Street Journal

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