Which Do You Trust: Aluminum or High-Strength Steel?
Ford has been making waves with the 2015 F-150 ever since it was revealed earlier this year at the Detroit Auto Show, with Ford claiming that it would weigh up to 700 pounds less than the 2014 F-150, due in part to its aluminum body construction. That weight loss was motivated primarily by tightening fuel economy standards in the U.S.
However, while consumers don’t seem too concerned, industry experts have cast some doubt on the durability of aluminum, particularly in an application as heavily used and abused as, say, a truck bed. The Steel Market Development Institute, which sponsored the Texas Truck Rodeo earlier this month, pointed out that high-strength steel is a more proven material that allows for competitive weight losses at a lower price than aluminum. For the record, 70 percent of the 2015 F-150’s frame is made from high-strength steel, more than any fullsize pickup.
Ford claims that its aluminum body construction has successfully undergone literally millions of miles of hard use, going so far as to build a Baja 1000 racer using components from the 2015 F-150 but disguised as a 2013. It even fit old F-150s with aluminum beds and gave them to work crews and mining operations, evaluating them after several thousand miles of brutal use. The company says the beds held up to abuse very well.
The other members of the Big Three chase increased efficiency differently. Ram Truck uses best-in-class aerodynamics for its fullsize trucks. The company also offers a 3.0L diesel engine, which offers as much or more torque than other V-8s while giving better fuel economy than its V-6 competition.
General Motors’ Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra 1500 trucks feature very technologically advanced gas engines and 8-speed automatic transmissions to earn segment-best V-8 fuel economy. The company also claims that their V-6 engines meets or beats combined fuel economy ratings for other base V-6 engines while offering better towing and payload ratings.
Before we call foul on Ford, it must be noted that the aluminum F-150’s fuel economy has not yet been tested by the Environmental Protection Agency, and Ford expects competitive or class-leading efficiency from its baby.
Still, with Ram and General Motors offering excellent economy from their more conventional trucks, is Ford gambling too much with aluminum construction? What do you think? Will alternative materials ever make a dent (pun intended) on the truck market?