It looks like General Motors is following in Ford’s footsteps with a possible introduction of an all-new aluminum pickup truck for the 2018 model year. Ford Motor Company introduced its 2015 F-150 aluminum pickup at the Detroit auto show in January. With Ford’s shift to aluminum they are claiming a weight savings gain of between 500 and 700 pounds per truck. With weight savings come increased fuel economy, a factor that cannot be ignored by other manufacturers, hence GM’s shift toward aluminum.
The move by General Motors was telegraphed by the locking up of supply contracts with Alcoa and Novelis to supply aluminum to the truck manufacturer. With fuel efficiency becoming an increasingly hot topic button, every advantage must be taken in order to compete with rival offerings. As Ford shifts away from steel, they have also dropped their big 6.2-liter V-8 engine in favor of the smaller displacement 3.5-liter V-6 EcoBoost engine, again, a move that will improve fuel efficiency. Both General Motors and Dodge are sticking with their big V-8s, but they are introducing diesels to their lineups in the near future.
Although many consider the move to aluminum a potentially risky one due to possible negative public perception, not as strong, and the introduction of new aluminum welding techniques, it looks like it is a move that will eventually be taken by all manufacturers in the future. Tom Boney, an executive at Novelis Inc, which supplies the kind of aluminum sheet metal used in cars, has shared that over the next six years numerous automakers will be making announcements involving aluminum supply contracts. As the Aluminum industry ramps up to meet the demand, automakers are jumping in line after Ford to lock up their own supply, as General Motors has reportedly done.
The latest generation of Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra pickups are lighter than their predecessors, but not by much. A move to aluminum would make a substantial difference. Combine that with the introduction of new eight, nine, or even 10 speed automatic transmissions, and more fuel-efficient power plants and GM will be right back at the forefront of the mileage wars. Despite some doubts over Ford F-150’s move to aluminum, as witnessed at the Detroit auto show, it looks like General Motors is following Ford with an aluminum pickup of their own.
GM is also reportedly working on better welding techniques than those used by Ford to reduce production costs. As Ford shifts to aluminum, their new model will be available in the fourth quarter, they have ramped up production of their existing pickup so dealerships will not be short supplied during factory shutdowns necessary to transform assembly lines to the shift to aluminum. GM will have to do the same, as the move to aluminum involves different techniques, and so the transition process from old to new must be done in the most efficient manner possible. No doubt GM will be watching Ford carefully as they make the transition.
With Ford already committed to the new technology, and General Motors following Ford with their own aluminum pickup, it will be interesting to see how long it takes Ram to follow suit.
By Scott Wilson