Report: Cost of Aluminum Vehicle Repairs Will Hit Body Shops, Consumers Hard
March 24, 2014 10:40 AM
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Body shops face huge costs to gear up and train for aluminum vehicle repairs
Mainstream auto manufactures have used aluminum in the construction of vehicles for a number of years. However, most of the panels on cars and truck were traditionally made from stamped steel, while in some cases
hoods and trunk lids were made from aluminum
With Ford rolling out the
all-new F-150 that uses a body made 95 percent from aluminum
, the future looks expensive for body shops charged with fixing vehicles after an accident. Reports indicate the costs of tools and training at body shops could soar.
The Aud A8 has been primarily constucted of aluminum for nearly two decades
That would lead to labor rates at the shops rising as well, leading to more costly repairs. Ford is blazing the trial into mainstream vehicles made mostly of aluminum,
but other manufactures will follow
. Making broader use of aluminum to reduce the weight of vehicle is one of the big ways that automakers plan to meet CAFE standards handed down by the White House.
Some body shops will have to invest hundreds of thousands of dollars in new training and equipment to be able to repair the aluminum used in Ford trucks. Smaller body shops might not be able to justify the cost, which could be a big benefit to dealer-owned body shops.
“Not every shop in America will be equipped to repair the new F-150,” said Dan Risley, president of the Automotive Service Association. “It’s cost prohibitive because there aren’t a lot of vehicles on the road with aluminum, so the return on investment could take a few years. When you throw aluminum into the mix, everything changes.”
The 2015 Ford F-150 will be the first mainstream vehicle to make wide use of aluminum throughout its body structure
He says that less than 20 percent of body shops will be equipped to fix aluminum body structures. Shops certified to fix high-end European brands like Porsche, Jaguar, and Audi cars that are used to working with aluminum will be the best ready to deal with the influx of new aluminum vehicles needing repairs.
Ford is not the only company that will employ extensive use of aluminum in full-size pickup trucks. General Motors
announced last month
that its next generation Silverado and Sierra will use the lightweight material.
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3/24/2014 5:51:11 PM
All other things being equal, a heavier car will be safer simply because a greater percentage of the weight can be devoted to safety; be it longer crumple zones or stronger passenger cages.
The idea that "vehicles would be safer if they were all lighter" refers to one very specific case. In a head-on collision between a light vehicle and a heavier vehicle moving at the same speed, the lighter vehicle actually bounces backwards.* It winds up traveling in the opposite direction it was before the collision - most of the impact energy is transferred to the smaller vehicle.
If both vehicles had similar weight (you can make the heavier vehicle lighter, or the lighter vehicle heavier), the crash energy is more evenly distributed lowering the chance of injury. This is the first time I've seen half of the solution to that very narrow situation incorrectly overgeneralized to encompass all cars.
* BTW, elastic or inelastic doesn't matter for this result. It's a consequence of both momentum and energy needing to be conserved. The only thing inelasticity affects is how fast the smaller car is moving when it bounces back. In the worst-case (completely elastic collision), it ends up moving backwards
than it was moving forward before the collision. In the completely inelastic case, its final velocity is based on the sum of the momentum of the two cars, which is backwards for the smaller car since it has less mass.
3/24/2014 8:26:34 PM
Given that more mass is safer, and that car weights are generally decreasing, I'm going to increase my mass in the only way I know how.
Eating lots and lots of Big Macs.
3/25/2014 9:59:24 PM
I think you're being a little hasty in your conclusion here.
Yes, deceleration rates will be the same with two 2-ton cars or two 2.5-ton cars. But a big part of safety is preventing passenger cell intrusion, and mass unrelated to structural integrity (like body panels) makes a car more deadly for others without being any better at taking a hit.
"We basically took a look at this situation and said, this is bullshit." -- Newegg Chief Legal Officer Lee Cheng's take on patent troll Soverain
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