Steel Breakthrough May Kill Aluminum Ford F-150 Lead

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Ford beat its competition to the punch with moving from steel bodies for the F-150 to aluminum. Recent studies have shown that the aluminum Ford F-150 is no harder to repair and is no more expensive to fix than traditional steel-bodied trucks. Ford’s move to aluminum cut hundreds of pounds from the F-150 helping to improve performance and fuel economy. Some of the lead the Ford F-150 has on the competition thanks to its lighter construction may have just been cut without the competition having to move to aluminum.

A breakthrough by a Japanese steel supplier called Nippon Steel Corporation could change the automotive industry in several ways. Nippon Steel was very concerned when Ford stopped using so much steel and moved to aluminum for the Ford F-150; it feared that the rest of the automotive market would go the same way. It began to research lightweight steel as a way to combat aluminum.

A car body built by Nippon Steel using its new lightweight steel weighed 30 percent less than one build using regular steel. To make the lightweight car body, Nippon used six different grades of steel, the strongest of which can withstand 290,000 pounds of pressure per square inch without breaking. Nippon also relied on other techniques to reduce body weight, including redesigning some components to use less material without losing strength.

On the show car the company unveiled, the doors were made with a combination of thin steel and reinforcement bars so that they could weigh 20 percent less than doors built using the traditional construction method. Nippon wants to ensure that steel will continue to be the number one material for vehicle construction moving into the future. Automakers who have been unable to source enough aluminum, or that have been reluctant to switch due to the complexity of retaining a dealer network to work on aluminum panels as Ford had to do, will certainly see the new lightweight steel and construction methods as appealing.

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Source: CarBuzz

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Written by Shane McGlaun

Shane is a car guy with a fondness for Mustangs and off-roading.

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13 Comments

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  1. Yeah, the new steel will save weight but the steel they use today is so cheap and thin you save weight but in reality there is no protection. Park your car or truck in a parking lot and have the adjacent driver open their door a little too hard and you come back to your vehicle and there is a big ole’ door ding. A lot of people really don’t care about someone else’s property so this new thinner steel will just be replacing the old thinner steel.

    • These thinner steels still hold up better than the tinfoil Ford is using to make “military grade” trucks.

    • These thinner steels still hold up better than the “military grade” tinfoil Ford is using to make trucks these days.

  2. Cost will be a factor at first. Another issue I see is afer an accident, weaker steel panels might be used to repair it cheaply, and that may lead to safety issues.

  3. Notice the key word used in the article is “steel bars”. Look at the interior sides of a NASCAR stock cars, beside the driver. The steel bars add a huge amount of ability to defend the driver on side impacts. No matter how fast a street car is going, anything it hits today will damage the metal parts. It’s cheaper to put in new parts during a repair than to fix them, so why not make them lighter and add more steel bars behind the sheet metal for strength? For decades, the hoods on cars and trucks have an inner support system, for part of the hood to make them lighter. Why now do the same to the whole car or truck? You can even use recycled plastic for some of the body parts, if an inner steel bar system gives it enough strength. I loved the look of 15 year old GM cars and vans that had plastic body panels. Let’s go back to the future, lighter, faster and cheaper to make, saves on fuel too. My girlfriend had a Pontiac Fiero, with those Endura body panels. After she sold the car in 4 years of business use, it still looked great, in a very nice gold colour.

  4. I didn’t buy an aluminum F-150 because of the reduction in weight. I bought one so that 10 years from now it’s not a pile of rust on my garage floor.

  5. The rust issue is all wrong . Aluminum corrodes and automakers have had problems for years with aluminum parts. In the 2000s GM used tailgates on SUVs made from aluminum and had to replace several due to corrosion. Now Ford is replacing hoods on mustangs,explorers and fusions because of it. I don’t care what the study’s say it is significantly harder to repair and the equipment to do so is very expensive

    • It’s weird, Audi has been making aluminum body cars for 20 years and they don’t have this problem. I have a friend that works in the auto body repair industry, and his best guess is because the aluminum is made in the same plant where steel is made.

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