The cost to repair aluminum body panels on the Ford F-150 pickup truck is not as expensive as once thought, according to a new study by the Highway Loss Data Institute.
Real-world data collected since the aluminum F-150 debuted in 2015 show that repair costs on the truck did not increase as much as those of its competitors, according to the institute. The findings refute an earlier study predicting the increased use of aluminum would lead to expensive fixes compared with traditional steel trucks.
The HLDI compared claim severity – defined as average loss payment per claim – of 2015-16 model-year trucks with their 2014 counterparts. That meant comparing the aluminum F-150 with its earlier steel version. The Ram 1500, Chevrolet Silverado 1500 and GMC Sierra 1500 kept their steel bodies in those years.
LOW CLAIM NUMBERS
While claim severity for the 2015 Ram, Chevrolet and GMC trucks rose by 4 to 7 percent compared with 2014 models, the 2015 F-150 increased only 1 percent. Claim severity for the 2016 Ram, Chevrolet and GMC jumped by 12 to 21 percent over 2014 models, while the F-150 increased by 4 percent.
Studies by the HLDI indicate increased use of aluminum in luxury vehicles is associated with a higher claim severity. But Ford used several techniques to avoid that problem.
The automaker lowered the price of aluminum parts and raised the cost of those made of steel, the institute said. Ford used a modular design to simplify the repair process. And the automaker provided dealerships and body shops with discounts when buying new aluminum repairing tools.
“Ford has worked to keep repair costs down for its aluminum-body truck,” said Matt Moore, senior vice president at HLDI. “But unless other manufacturers take the same steps, there’s no guarantee that these results will hold true for future aluminum-body vehicles from other manufacturers.”
And while Ford’s efforts have worked to keep claim severity down, the aluminum body comes with other costs. Aluminum F-150 models have a 7 percent higher collision claim frequency, the institute said. That could mean the body is more easily damaged, the HLDI said. And repairs to the aluminum F-150 appear to take longer than those to steel trucks.
No manufacturer has adopted aluminum for pickup trucks in the way Ford did for the 2015 F-150.
However, partial aluminum use in full-size trucks has increased in recent years. The process, known as “lightweighting,” aims to reduce fuel consumption while increasing maximum towing and payload capacity.