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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3/25/2014 1:08:57 PM
Kinetic energy is 0.5mv^2, so it scales linearly with the car's weight. A 2500 lb car has 25% more kinetic energy as a 2000 lb car, but it also has 25% more mass. So the amount of energy each pound of the car needs to absorb is the same when two 2500 lb cars collide, as when two 2000 lb cars collide.
Where you run into problems is with
. If you double the weight of the car, the metal structures which comprise the crumple zones and safety cage for the passenger compartment need to be doubled in strength. But doubling the strength in one direction isn't enough - it needs to be doubled in all three directions. You end up with 2^3 = 8x the amount of required material. (Actually you don't need quite so much because most collisions are when traveling forward - spin-outs where you hit sideways are rather rare.)
So what you end up with is a bathtub-like curve. Smaller cars are more dangerous because they have insufficient weight allowance for safety features (the minimum being based on the weight of the occupants, which doesn't become smaller just because you've got a smaller car). Really big cars are more dangerous because their mass requires the safety features to take up a greater percentage of the weight, and again have insufficient weight allowance for safety features. And cars in between occupy a happy medium where they're able to fit in the requisite safety features within their weight budget.
If they're switching to lighter materials like aluminum, that says they're already at the lower limit of the weight allowance. So further mandated cuts will increase the temptation to shave a few pounds off the safety structures. This already has already become an issue in the rollover safety test. It's impractical to actually roll the car over to test the strength of its roof, given that there are so many angles at which a rollover could happen (collisions OTOH almost always happen with the car traveling forward). So the government and IIHS made a test which puts pressure on the roof at a certain angle. Another group tried testing at different angles and found the roof performed much worse at those oblique angles, meaning the designers are saving weight by optimizing for the test rather than for real-world situations.
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