GM Following Ford With Aluminum-Bodied Pickups For 2018

Following a recent announcement by Ford to switch to aluminum for its 2015 F-150, and in preparation for tightening federal fuel economy standards, General Motors says it will have aluminum-bodied pickup trucks by 2018.

According to the Wall Street Journal, GM has made agreements with Alcoa Inc and Novelis Inc and these suppliers are preparing more supply to meet GM’s pending demand.

GM is the number-one U.S. automaker, and pickups – some of the highest fuel users – constitute a major chunk of its business. U.S. fuel economy and emissions standards look at the entire range of vehicles on offer by respective manufacturers, so trimming fuel usage among these is seen as worth the expense and complications.

Prior to Ford’s announcement for the F-150 which is due around October this year, GM’s executives were reportedly on the fence about going to more costly aluminum, and whether consumers would pay for it.

Ford has already said it will require a changeover at its two F-150 assembly plants, and has spent hundreds of million reportedly on this effort.

Ford’s recent announcement included an estimated curb weight decrease of a little less than 700 pounds per vehicle due to lighter weight from aluminum. This weight cut, not including powertrain improvements, should by itself net a sizable decline in fleet fuel consumption.

Ford says its “military grade” aluminum resist dings better than steel, but it will also require body shops to receive supplemental training tp learn to properly repair it.

The Journal reports the demand for automotive aluminum is so high that the several years lead time was necessary to secure the sheet metal needed for GM’s requirements.

Before even the new GM trucks follow, perhaps five years after Ford’s, GM is planning an undated to its Silverado for 2016, which includes such fuel saving tricks as direct injection, and a 10-speed transmission co-developed with Ford, and which Ford also intends to use.

WSJ