When Ford first announced that the F-150 would feature an aluminum body back in 2014, the automaker was met with swaths of criticisms. Concerns arose related to toughness of aluminum, the cost of panel repairs, and the overall increase in MSRP associated with the more expensive metal. Ford has been able to dismiss many of these critiques at this point, but that didn’t leave some buyers convinced the metallurgy would shift for the new model. Nevertheless, the new F-150 stays the course.
“It’s a recipe that’s worked for us,” said F-150 Chief Engineer Craig Schmatz when asked why Ford chose to stick with an aluminum body over a mixed-material solution. “We made the big bet in 2015… and the body shops and processes are all set up to do that. So for us to shift to mixed metals we would have to make the very conscious decision that may not have been able to be incorporated into our facilities. For us it just made sense to stay the course.”
The reason then to continue with the aluminum alloy construction boils down to cost. The automaker invested heavily in their facilities when steel was ditched back in 2014, as did their dealerships and independent body shops. A report from Automotive News stated that while Ford was busy retooling their production facilities, repair shops were asked to spend up to $100,000 for the equipment and training needed to work on the new design. Moving away from the use of aluminum now would require another round of investment from the company and their service partners alike. With the automaker already dumping a significant amount of money towards their electrification efforts, this likely seemed like an unwise business decision.
That said, costs were one of the main reasons analysts and fans thought that Ford may step away from aluminum for the 2021 F-150. The price of aluminum has continued to rise in recent years, and the sky-high gas prices predicated a few years ago haven’t come. This is best highlighted by the mere existence of the TRX or anything Hellcat related. To Ford’s credit however, other automakers are now beginning to incorporate more of the lightweight alloy into their own truck construction. I guess if you can’t beat them, join them a tiny bit.