Ford touted the savings for customers as a selling point, and the
company pledged to help dealers defray expenses of up to $50,000
that some will need to pay for tools and equipment to certify their
repair shops for the new truck.
The new F-150's body is 95 percent made of a military grade aluminum
alloy used in Humvees and weighs up to 700 pounds less than the
current truck. It was redesigned in a "modular" fashion that allows
dealers and repair shops to save hours on fixes.
Among the most important changes is the front structure that holds
the fender, Ford global marketing chief Jim Farley said. This piece
is no longer welded, and can be taken off the truck, shaving six to
seven hours from average repair time on that part.
"You'll see the dramatic changes we made that will really help save
a lot of labor costs in the repairability of the vehicle," Farley
said after meeting with dealers at the annual National Automobile
Dealers Association conference.
Ford launched the truck at the Detroit auto show this month and it
will appear in showrooms late this year. Ford's display at the NADA
conference features a deconstructed F-150 shaded in different colors
to illustrate the modular redesign.
The so-called "B-pillar" that slices between the front and rear
doors was painted green and affixed with a sign saying it can be
replaced without disturbing the roof. The A-pillar or roof rail tube
can be sectioned off for repairs.
The more extensive use of aluminum in the new F-150 requires dealers
and repair shops to use different repair tools. But many already
have experience with aluminum because it is used in the hood of the
current F-150 and in other models on the road.
Just 20 percent of dealers have a collision shop to make fixes to
major dents and dings in these work trucks. Independent shops handle
the majority of such repairs.
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It may cost a dealer between $30,000 and $50,000 to be certified to
do repairs on the new F-150, but that range applies to dealers who
are "starting from scratch," executives said. Independent shops will
also have to be certified by Ford.
The No. 2 U.S. automaker told dealers it would defray up to 20
percent, or $10,000, of the cost of certification.
It is unclear what the cost of insuring the new truck will be, but
executives said costs will be "competitive" with rivals. The new
truck's modular design help lower overall costs and hold down
insurance costs, according to one dealer at the meeting.
"They think (insurance costs) will be same or possibly even less
because Ford has done this in a modular way," said Todd Citron, a
Ford dealer in Lafayette, Louisiana. "In other words, they can fix
the vehicle in components."
(Reporting by Deepa Seetharaman; editing
by David Gregorio)
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