When Ford redesigned the F-150 for 2015 they went with an aluminum body—which increased fuel economy by helping to cut 700 pounds from the weight of the vehicle. The last time we covered this truck was just before the EPA mileage figures came out. We now know that a 2015 2WD F-150 with a 2.7-liter EcoBoost V-6 has a combined fuel economy rating of 22 mpg (19 city; 26 highway).
According to Car and Driver, “Those numbers go head-to-head with the EPA numbers for the mid-size 2016 Chevy Colorado with the V-6 and two-wheel drive, the Ford bettering Chevy’s smaller truck in the city rating by 1 mpg. But if wringing every last mile out of a gallon is your top priority, the Ram 1500 EcoDiesel still trumps them both with its 20/28/23 numbers. Checking the box for a 4×4 drivetrain with the same engine drops the Ford’s numbers slightly to 18/23/20.”
But beyond better gas mileage and greater load capacity because you’re hauling “less” truck, what else do you get by going to an aluminum body? Many believe the change will result in higher prices for repairs because aluminum costs more than steel and is a more difficult material to work with. Edmunds decided to test this hypothesis by taking an 8-pound sledge hammer to the right rear quarter panel of a 2015 F-150 (video below—watch it and cringe). After hitting the truck twice they took it to the local Ford dealer and had it repaired.
The cost of the repairs? $2,938.44. A cracked LED tail light with a blind spot sensor accounted for nearly $900 of that cost. Take that away and there was still a good $2,000 worth of actual body work, which by Edmunds estimate is $600 more than the repairs would have cost if the panel had been steel. The number is only an estimate and reflects the fact that the part of the truck that was damaged is not one that would normally be replaced; the dents and creases had to be bumped out. The price differential might have been less if the damaged part was one more easily replaced than repaired—like a door panel or front fender.
Consumer Reports asked Ford about the cost of repairs to the new F-150 and was told the body was designed with ease of repair in mind. Components that used to be connected with spot welds (on steel bodies) are now held together with rivets and glue—so replacing those parts is supposed to be easier.
But there may be fewer body shops able to repair aluminum than are currently able to repair steel. The work requires different tools (and skills) than some shops currently possess. In a story published last spring in Automotive News a Detroit area Ford dealer is quoted as saying it will cost him $50,000 to $100,000 to outfit his shop to do bodywork to aluminum trucks. Some of the other people they interviewed put the cost at upwards of $70,000, saying it would require the purchase of “a rivet gun, MIG (metal inert gas) welder, hand tools, a vacuum cleaner for aluminum dust and curtains or walls to separate the steel and aluminum work areas. That's necessary because aluminum and steel do not mix. If minute amounts of aluminum dust end up on a steel body part in a paint shop, galvanic corrosion occurs, eventually causing rustlike spots to bleed through the paint.”