If you follow auto news at all, you know this already. Ford Motor Company's new F-150 has an aluminum body.
Aluminum is lighter than steel, so the switch has taken up to 700 pounds off the weight of the pickup, improving the truck's fuel economy as well as the payload and towing capacity.
But this is the first high-volume vehicle to go all-aluminum. And Edmunds.com isn't the only observer to wonder if there might be some higher costs associated with the move, in addition to the higher sticker price.
Scott Oldham is Editor-in-chief of Edmunds.com. His group bought a new F-150 as soon as it became available, and two days later, an employee deliberately smashed the side of the truck's bed with a sledgehammer, twice.
"Well, it was fun," says Oldham. "But that's not the only reason we did it. The big question for potential owners is, 'Well if I dent it, will it cost more to fix than a traditional steel pickup, and also, of course, is it as strong?"
Oldham says it took two blows from the sledgehammer to get a good dent on the panel. So, yes, the aluminum panels are at least as strong as steel.
But then, they took it to a local dealer for the repair.
The bill? $2,400 for the 20 hours of labor alone. "A steel panel would have taken half as much time," Oldham says the body shop guys told them.
He says that could mean the new F-150 will cost twice as much to repair as the old steel model. Oldham says Edmunds called another body shop and got the same price quoted for the repair.
Ford Motor Company say Edmunds' experience is atypical.
Spokesman Mike Levine says, "Edmunds’ experience with repair time and costs in California is not what all F-150 customers should expect. The repair should have taken less than 10 hours. That one experience in one dealership is not representative."