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GM plays catchup in the aluminum game

We’ve all heard about the 2015 Ford F-150 and the fact that its aluminum diet allowed it to lose 700 pounds. While the ladder frame of the all-new F-150 is still constructed of high-strength steel, 95 percent of its body structure made of “high-strength, military-grade, aluminum alloys” according to Ford.
 
So Ford has gone to aluminum to reduce weight and thus improve fuel economy. Chrysler has gone a completely different route by providing a new V6 diesel engine for the half-ton Ram 1500. So that leaves the industry looking to General Motors to provide a counterpunch in the full-size pickup fuel efficiency wars.
 
We are now learning that General Motors will take the Ford approach by using aluminum for the body of its next generation Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra full-size trucks. According to The Wall Street Journal, GM’s hand has been forced by increasingly stringent fuel economy standards (and of course market pressure from rivals).


2014 Chevrolet Silverado
 
According to the WSJ report, GM is partnering with both Alcoa and Novelis to supply aluminum sheets for its next generation trucks. As we reported earlier this month, Ford has already inked a deal with Novelis to supply aluminum sheets for its F-150.
 
“There’s isn’t an automotive manufacturer that makes vehicles in North America that we’re not talking to,” said Tom Boney, head of North American automotive business for Novelis, in an interview with The Detroit News. “Our customers will be making announcements fairly regularly over the next six years that will transform the automobile industry.”
 
GM last redesigned the Silverado/Sierra in 2013 for the 2014 model year.

Source: Wall Street Journal/Reuters



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Catch Up
By tng on 2/19/2014 1:00:59 PM , Rating: 2
So GM is playing catch up with Ford? I would have thought that they would have both thought of this years ago.




RE: Catch Up
By tng on 2/19/2014 1:03:10 PM , Rating: 2
Is it the CAFE standards that are prompting this? I am not familiar with what the new standards cover.


RE: Catch Up
By Flunk on 2/19/2014 1:10:01 PM , Rating: 3
The reason they didn't is that it wasn't economically viable to. It made more sense to keep the trucks heavier and save the extra cost for aluminum over steel. Now with the additional costs from CAFE and a more efficiency-conscious consumer aluminum makes a lot more sense.


RE: Catch Up
By KentState on 2/19/2014 4:16:36 PM , Rating: 3
GM released their new model in 2014 with more fuel efficient engines than Ford. So they are both playing catchup with each other.


RE: Catch Up
By Brandon Hill (blog) on 2/19/14, Rating: -1
RE: Catch Up
By Andrwken on 2/20/2014 1:19:47 PM , Rating: 5
Considering the 700 lb. weight reduction only gives Ford a 300 lb advantage over the current GM truck lineup utilizing no aluminum body panels, I would say its fair to say you are making quite the assumption that they are going to widen the gap at all. Feel free to look up curb weight on either company's site to verify. Also, in terms of mileage, GM does have a small displacement diesel if further mileage gains are needed.

I am curious how 700 lbs. is going to gain them 5-6 miles per gallon? My current truck does not lose 5 mpg with four or five people in it versus one. Is there some other tech they have shown that will help the mileage figure?


RE: Catch Up
By stm1185 on 2/19/14, Rating: 0
RE: Catch Up
By Spuke on 2/19/2014 5:58:33 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
Ford is pushing out a major upgrade, the smaller turbo v6 could pull 30mpg highway in a full size truck, which is rediculous.
I'm looking forward to that new engine big time. Hopefully it doesn't disappoint.


RE: Catch Up
By gerf on 2/19/14, Rating: 0
RE: Catch Up
By Jeffk464 on 2/20/2014 12:16:45 PM , Rating: 2
Yeah, but why didn't they go aluminum on the upcoming mustang? Now that would have been something.


RE: Catch Up
By Jeffk464 on 2/20/2014 12:11:56 PM , Rating: 2
Is it just me or does the current gen GM pickup look boring as hell. Ford is going to absolutely wipe the floor with this thing.


RE: Catch Up
By ajdavis on 2/21/2014 10:31:22 AM , Rating: 2
They both look terrible to me.


Time to move some money around
By sgw2n5 on 2/19/2014 1:23:29 PM , Rating: 2
Great time to pick up Alcoa and Novelis stocks. They will be manufacturing tons of (both new and recycled) aluminum panels for this next generation of vehicles. I believe both mills are already at or near peak production capacity... looks like they are already expanding and building new facilities meet the coming demand.




RE: Time to move some money around
By stm1185 on 2/19/2014 4:50:23 PM , Rating: 2
Or if you are looking for a career, knowing how to properly weld aluminum will be in high demand in 2 years.


By Reclaimer77 on 2/19/2014 8:11:20 PM , Rating: 2
Being a welder long-term is pretty bad for your health. Just saying.


RE: Time to move some money around
By jbwhite99 on 2/19/2014 6:30:19 PM , Rating: 2
Alcoa, Tennessee operations (yes there is such a town) had a groundbreaking for a new plant to make this aluminum.

However, Alcoa announced that their Australian operations will stop making aluminium and be shuttered by the end of the year. This is a great new product, but due to dumping on the market by plants in China and Russia, aluminum costs are still down from where they were.


By FITCamaro on 2/20/2014 12:06:03 PM , Rating: 2
That's because the Australian dollar is really high right now and the government is being worse than the US in terms of regulations. Plus labor is insanely expensive there (and not just from the high dollar).

That's why GM is closing up shop too there.


By Mizerable on 2/20/2014 9:35:17 AM , Rating: 2
It's already too late. Hedge funds and asset managers have already gotten into those companies when they heard the news about the trucks. It's ancient history by the time the average DT reader hears about it.


RE: Time to move some money around
By mars2k on 2/26/2014 10:01:36 AM , Rating: 2
Making aluminum takes tons of electricity as well. With all our fracking surely the energy costs are a factor as well. Advantage USA


Resonant Frequency.
By drycrust3 on 2/19/2014 2:48:20 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
While the ladder frame of the all-new F-150 is still constructed of high-strength steel, 95 percent of its body structure made of “high-strength, military-grade, aluminum alloys” according to Ford.

I was behind one of those high end small motor scooters' that have mag wheels, an alloy frame, an aluminium engine, etc and almost no steel in it at the lights a few months back, and the lights wouldn't change to green. After a few minutes it was obvious the electromagnetic resonant traffic light sensor wasn't detecting her cycle. I got out of my bus and went and asked the lady if she'd move forward onto the cyclist's priority spot (in New Zealand we have a space at the front of many lanes for cyclists), so leaving the space over the electric coil for a vehicle made with a metal that alters the resonant frequency of the coil, e.g. the steel in my bus.
One of the managers at my work has bought a new scooter as well, and when I asked him if he had trouble with traffic lights detecting him, he said he had noticed they did, but didn't know why, so I pointed out the reasons why (alloy mag wheels, aluminium engine casing, possible alloy cycle chassis, etc) as he was unaware that a high aluminium alloy content in a vehicle can result in unreliable detection by the traffic lights.
One of the motorcyclists at work said it was very common problem at work, and that you need to cut diagonally over the electromagnetic resonant sensor so the small amount of steel in the cycle (e.g. disc brakes, cycle stand, etc) has a better chance of changing the resonant frequency. I'm not sure if that is true, but it sounds plausible, but it is also something a larger vehicle like a car or truck won't be able to do.
The point being is that our traffic light systems (well, those in New Zealand anyway, and quite likely the rest of the world) require vehicles to have enough resonant frequency altering metal (e.g. steel) in them that they can reliably be detected by traffic lights or the owners of those vehicles are in for a lot of long and frustrating waiting at red lights.




RE: Resonant Frequency.
By Jeffk464 on 2/19/2014 2:57:33 PM , Rating: 2
Yup, sometimes if there is nobody coming up behind you on a motorcycle you just have to run the red.


RE: Resonant Frequency.
By lagomorpha on 2/19/2014 3:10:57 PM , Rating: 2
That's not an aluminum problem, that's a motorcycle problem. Most traffic lights will detect my motorcycle even though it has almost no iron in it but a few will not (mostly left-turn signals for some reason).

Something the size of a truck, even if it's mostly aluminum should have no trouble being picked up by induction loops in the road. They aren't just detecting ferrous metals, aluminum will be detected as well (otherwise metal detectors couldn't detect aluminum). There are even some calibrated to pick up bicycles but I kind of doubt they work on carbon fiber cycles.


RE: Resonant Frequency.
By Dr of crap on 2/20/2014 12:26:54 PM , Rating: 2
WRONG. The reason the motocycle/scooter doesn't "trip" the light is the smaller amount of metal used. Its not the aluminum. The sensors for the lights are set for the bigger vehicles and not for the smaller 2 wheeled vehicles.

Here after a period of time, or if your turning left and you go through two light changes and and you don't get a green for you cycle, you can go through the red and the law says that's ok.


RE: Resonant Frequency.
By Manch on 2/21/2014 3:10:02 AM , Rating: 2
You can buy a small metal plate for your motorcycle/scotter that will help with this. Some states have laws that allow you to treat these intersections as a 4way stop.


By maxi2mc on 2/19/2014 2:36:32 PM , Rating: 2
So with the gas revolution that appeared in the US, prices to produce aluminium should go down in US, or at least versus EU. I think this is another reason why they choosed aluminium.

PS: i live in EU.




bah!
By superstition on 2/21/2014 4:31:33 PM , Rating: 2
If they would have just spent a few years determining the dynamics of the matrix professor Scott gave them.




Mistake
By dgingerich on 2/19/14, Rating: -1
RE: Mistake
By SeeManRun on 2/19/2014 1:38:24 PM , Rating: 4
How is that possible? The truck has not been released yet. There are no customers with aluminum F150's yet.


RE: Mistake
By Chadder007 on 2/19/2014 1:40:13 PM , Rating: 2
Agreed....especially after having aluminum on a car myself.


RE: Mistake
By tng on 2/19/2014 2:18:33 PM , Rating: 2
Dents and dings in aluminum have to be treated differently by the body shop as well.


RE: Mistake
By Rukkian on 2/19/2014 2:39:44 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
especially after having aluminum on a car myself.

Just out of curiosity, what aluminum car did you own? I did not know there were any mainstream cars (maybe you had a specialty or custom car) that were made out of aluminum.

I do not have alot of experience with aluminum (especially the grade that Ford is using), so am wondering what kinds of issues to look out for. Not planning on buying one of these, just interested.


RE: Mistake
By Jeffk464 on 2/19/2014 2:48:49 PM , Rating: 1
Best one ever was that last model RX7, what a car. Aluminum body light weight and a turbo rotary engine for extreme weight to HP. Oh yeah, if I were looking for the ultimate classic sports car down the road I think I would grab one of these.


RE: Mistake
By Rukkian on 2/19/2014 4:04:54 PM , Rating: 2
Thanks, I had no idea. I never had (or really wanted) an rx7, so I didn't know.


RE: Mistake
By Reclaimer77 on 2/19/2014 4:10:59 PM , Rating: 2
The scariest/most fun I ever had in a car was a third 'gen RX-7 Turbo. Holy crap, what a blast.

Finding one not ragged to hell at this point, and keeping one running, is a whole different story :(


RE: Mistake
By Brandon Hill (blog) on 2/19/2014 5:26:55 PM , Rating: 2
The FD RX-7 did not have an aluminum body. I think you're recalling the NSX.

The FD RX-7 was extremely lightweight, but not due to aluminum.


RE: Mistake
By SAN-Man on 2/19/2014 3:39:13 PM , Rating: 2
Lots of them... my Lincoln LS has aluminum hood, trunk and fenders. That was 15 years ago.


RE: Mistake
By Rukkian on 2/19/2014 4:14:41 PM , Rating: 2
That is interesting that Ford is making a big deal out of it if they already had production cars with it.


RE: Mistake
By Brandon Hill (blog) on 2/19/2014 5:29:10 PM , Rating: 2
Making a few bolt on body panels out of aluminum is not the same as constructing the entire body structure out of aluminum.


RE: Mistake
By SAN-Man on 2/20/2014 4:29:00 PM , Rating: 2
Yeah, parts of the unibody, ALL the suspension and steering components were also alum.


RE: Mistake
By sigmatau on 2/19/2014 9:33:47 PM , Rating: 2
Ford also owned Jaguar at the time when it was one of the first cars with a full aluminum body.


RE: Mistake
By mike8675309 on 2/20/2014 2:15:57 PM , Rating: 2
From what I can tell Jaguar sold about 20,000 X350's in 2003 which was the first year for the aluminum body. Last year Ford sold about 763,000 F150 pick up trucks. Whatever the scale of the process used for the Jag, I get the feeling it's a whole new ball game for the F150.

Note that Semi-Trucks and trailers are often skinned in Aluminum, and they can be ordered with Aluminum frame rails as well and have been for more than 30 years.


RE: Mistake
By SAN-Man on 2/20/2014 4:29:42 PM , Rating: 2
Indeed, Ford has been doing this quite a while.


RE: Mistake
By kingmotley on 2/19/2014 4:08:34 PM , Rating: 1
The 2014 corvette body is made out of aluminum, but not the panels as far as I know.


RE: Mistake
By OutOfTouch on 2/19/2014 4:37:23 PM , Rating: 3
The Corvettes have had aluminum frames for years. Their bodies are fiberglass.


RE: Mistake
By TETRONG on 2/20/2014 12:19:59 AM , Rating: 2
Audi A8 employs an aluminium frame and body since about 2002


RE: Mistake
By Rukkian on 2/19/2014 2:41:23 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
Ford customers are already having problems with the fact that aluminum dents much easier than steel. People are getting dents in panels that a steel body panel would shrug off without even chipping the paint.


I think you may have that backwards, as their first production vehicle with an aluminum body has not been released. Are you actually saying that steel dents easier? Where are you getting your facts?


RE: Mistake
By Jeffk464 on 2/19/2014 2:54:22 PM , Rating: 1
Facts are such a pain when they get in the way of making a point.

The biggest gripe is ford's "military grade aluminum alloy" what the H is this suppose to mean? How many different aluminum alloys do you think are used in military vehicles? It reminds me of Chrysler's Corinthian leather advertising campaign.


RE: Mistake
By BRB29 on 2/19/2014 3:05:24 PM , Rating: 2
I drove plenty of military vehicles since I was in the military for a long time. I can definitely tell you about the very limited use of aluminum.

People claim these "military grade" stuff all the time. It's just marketing.

The military doesn't test that your aluminum or capacitors has to be made of blah. It has to pass the torture tests, the heat tests, the flammability tests, the durability tests, and the dirt tests. But these tests are for the product as a whole.

Seriously, it's all about purpose and function in intended scenarios. I've driven plenty of military vehicles and I have yet to see substantial use of aluminum.


RE: Mistake
By Reclaimer77 on 2/19/2014 4:28:13 PM , Rating: 2
So wait, the military-grade condoms I've been using are just marketing FUD? But it says right on the wrapper "strong enough to fu*k a Saigon hooker"!


RE: Mistake
By Solandri on 2/19/2014 6:00:03 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
The military doesn't test that your aluminum or capacitors has to be made of blah. It has to pass the torture tests, the heat tests, the flammability tests, the durability tests, and the dirt tests. But these tests are for the product as a whole.

It's probably referring to mil spec. The different aluminum alloys all have a numerical designation depending on composition and how they're formed. The military frequently adds some additional requirements (most notably, anodizing) in the form of a mil spec.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aluminium_alloy#Alloy...

So yes it is just marketing, but it does require testing the material to make sure it meets the designated specification. Some of the military standards are for the product as a whole, some are for components (especially with a construction material like aluminum).


RE: Mistake
By FishTankX on 2/20/2014 11:34:29 PM , Rating: 2
http://www.alcoa.com/global/en/news/news_detail.as...

According to Alcoa aluminum armor is in the bradley and humvee


RE: Mistake
By wookie1 on 2/20/2014 11:25:53 AM , Rating: 2
Hey, it was "RICH Corinthian Leather"!


RE: Mistake
By stm1185 on 2/19/2014 4:51:31 PM , Rating: 1
Dear Ford, please build me a Hammer out of the aluminum used on the 2015 F-150 so I can demonstrate to dgingerich how soft and malleable it feels.


RE: Mistake
By Jeffk464 on 2/20/2014 12:02:04 PM , Rating: 2
no joke dude or the duder soft hammers are pretty useful. Although normally you go with brass.


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