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Ford's move to aluminum in top selling vehicle puts pressure on competitors to find their own aluminum supply

Ford has made a serious move to reduce the weight of its incredibly popular F-150 truck through the use of aluminum. The 2015 F-150 uses so much aluminum that it has shed 700 pounds, and 95% of its body is now made from the lightweight material.
Not only does lighter weight mean better fuel economy, but it will also mean better performance and greater towing capacity as well.
“There’s a very simple reason for it [weight reduction]: CAFE,” said General Motors Co. spokesman Klaus-Peter Martin, referring to the U.S. government’s tough new fuel economy standards. “Every gram you can take out of the vehicle, it helps with fuel efficiency.”

2015 Ford F-150
With Ford making such a huge move with its top selling F-150, its competitors are now left rushing to sign their own agreements with aluminum suppliers. Since the F-Series trucks sell in such huge numbers, Ford’s appetite for aluminum in the industry will be unmatched (and it has already locked up much of the automotive-grade aluminum sheets available on the market for the F-150).
Tom Boney, head of North American automotive business for Novelis Inc., also noted that every automaker was forced to look at Ford's plans for the new F-150 and adjust their plans accordingly.
Aluminum maker Alcoa is also boosting production with new plants in the U.S. and Saudi Arabia to prepare for the increased adoption of aluminum in the automotive world.
Competitors are going to be significantly behind Ford in moving their [volume] trucks and cars to aluminum. They will not only have to redesign their vehicles but will also need to secure an adequate supply of aluminum and invest in retooling factories to make the body panels from the aluminum sheets. 

Source: Detroit News

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RE: Hmmm
By TheEquatorialSky on 2/12/2014 11:30:28 AM , Rating: 2
Yeah, the F150 was probably chosen as the testbed because it is body-on-frame.

Aluminum works fine as a structural material, but it is difficult to fasten without destroying its strength. Lotus builds aluminum unibody frames by gluing extruded members together. Honda built its NSX and Insight using a structural monocoque frame composed of extruded aluminum members joined at cast aluminum interconnects. The non-structural body panels (fenders, door skins, rear quarter panel, etc.) were then attached through welding, which significantly reduces the yield strength.

Aluminum is also more expensive, more difficult to stamp and hard to streamline into conventional manufacturing lines. Carbon fiber composites won't become commonplace until better mass-production techniques become available. The current pre-preg / autoclave method its too labor intensive.

RE: Hmmm
By ianweck on 2/12/2014 12:09:27 PM , Rating: 2
You sound like you know what you're talking about. What business are you in?

RE: Hmmm
By Spuke on 2/12/2014 1:01:36 PM , Rating: 2
The current pre-preg / autoclave method its too labor intensive.
Isn't BMW using a different process for it's CF EV's?

RE: Hmmm
By TheEquatorialSky on 2/12/2014 2:49:44 PM , Rating: 2
Yeah, the industry has been moving to resin transfer molding (RTM). A few high performance cars use carbon fiber in the roof panels (e.g. BMW M6, Chevy Z06) and manufacturers are replacing more panels/parts as they gain confidence.

Outside of super cars, the only production vehicle I know of to use significant amounts of carbon fiber in the frame is the VW XL1. It's really just an expensive technology demonstrator for energy efficiency. That is, a different type of super car...

RE: Hmmm
By Spuke on 2/12/2014 5:14:37 PM , Rating: 2
Yeah, the industry has been moving to resin transfer molding (RTM).
Thanks for the reply.

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