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Ford F-150 to include more aluminum
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Ford F-150 to include more aluminum

Ford F-150 will include more aluminum

Shawn Ebeler works on the door assembly on a new Ford F-150 truck is assembled at the Dearborn Truck Plant in Dearborn, Mich. Ford announced the truck would include more aluminum.

America's top-selling vehicle for 33 straight years will shed even more steel.

Ford announced it would use aluminum from Alcoa's new micromill in Texas to make more automotive parts for the best-selling F-150 truck, which is now about 25 percent aluminum after switching to the lighter metal that's used in pop cans and Reynolds Wrap.

It hopes to drop 700 pounds to improve mileage and comply with tougher federal emissions rules. Alcoa said its new next-generation aluminum alloys are more formable, so they can be used for parts like fenders and inside door panels that have traditionally been made with steel.

"Light-weighting enables us to design vehicles with great customer attributes – like the F-150, which can tow more, haul more, accelerate quicker and stop faster than the previous F-150, and is more fuel-efficient than ever," said Raj Nair, Ford group vice president and chief technical officer, Global Product Development.

"This collaboration supports our continued drive for innovation, as we research automotive applications for even greater light-weighting."

Automakers both domestic and foreign rank among the biggest customers of Northwest Indiana's steel mills. Steel currently accounts for roughly 60 percent of the average vehicle, but steelmakers themselves have been developing advanced high-strength steels that help lighten vehicles so they meet federal regulations.

The steel and aluminum industries have been fighting what's been dubbed "car wars," as steelmakers look to defend their historic automotive market share. The F-150's heavier use of aluminum is a blow in volume alone because the market-leading truck sold more than 750,000 units last year.

Ford will start using Alcoa's automotive alloys in the 2016 F-150 production later this year. The Dearborn, Mich.-based automaker plans to increase use of aluminum over time, more than doubling it from 2016 to 2017.

"Alcoa's breakthrough Micromill technology offers highly differentiated automotive material with strength, weight, formability and surface quality combinations previously impossible," said Klaus Kleinfeld, Alcoa chairman and chief executive officer.

"This high-tech aluminum will give Ford a true material edge enabling greater design flexibility and better vehicle performance — making the concept cars of tomorrow a reality."

Ford's leaning toward aluminum has come under fire. The Chevy Silverado, which has been gaining ground on the F-150, ran ads, for instance, where people ran to a steel cage instead of an aluminum one when confronted with a grizzly bear.


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Business Reporter

Joseph S. Pete is a Lisagor Award-winning business reporter who covers steel, industry, unions, the ports, retail, banking and more. The Indiana University grad has been with The Times since 2013 and blogs about craft beer, culture and the military.

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