Trucks & SUVs

The President of GM Says the Company ‘Doesn’t Believe’ in Aluminum Trucks

Many consumers love trucks because of their excellent durability. With their heavy-duty construction, they make excellent work vehicles. Trucks like the RAM 3500 and the Chevy Silverado 2500HD can tow more than 30,000 pounds when properly equipped.

These trucks are traditionally built with steel bodies. However, one automaker has been using other materials. In 2015, Ford switched to aluminum body construction for the F-150. This move was considered controversial at the time, but it paid off. Years later, the Ford F-150 is still regarded as one of the best trucks on the market. Ford expected most automakers to follow its lead, but GM wasn’t sold on the aluminum truck.

Why Ford made the switch

Ford decided to use aluminum for a few reasons. It weighs less than steel, so using aluminum reduces the truck’s overall mass. This makes it easier to handle and increases its towing capabilities. Aluminum trucks are also able to brake faster, which could reduce many accidents.

Another reason for the switch is the improved fuel economy. Pickup trucks don’t always have the best gas mileage thanks to larger fuel tanks and curb weights. An aluminum structure combined with the available EcoBoost engine gives the Ford F-150 great fuel economy ratings. It can get up to 20 mpg on city roads and 26 MPG on the highway. In the future, Ford promises to increase these numbers to 30 MPG.

What others had to say

These benefits apparently weren’t enough to impress other automakers. GM’s president stated that their company “didn’t believe” in aluminum trucks. He used an analogy of a hammer when comparing the F-150 to a Chevy Silverado. From his point of view, one can’t get as much work done with an aluminum hammer compared to a steel one. GM even went as far as to prove this point with a commercial demonstration.

The automaker also stated that good fuel economy wasn’t enough to justify the “decreased” work performance. RAM has also decided to stick with steel construction on its pickup trucks. However, Dodge was not as harshly critical of Ford’s switch to aluminum. In fact, RAM trucks have recently been leaning towards a “mixed-materials” production strategy.

Aluminum construction in Chevy and RAM trucks

The other two members of the “Big Three” still use aluminum components in some parts of their pickups. The latest Chevy Silverado has an aluminum tailgate, hood, and doors. With this change, the truck’s overall weight was reduced by 450 pounds.

Interestingly, it’s also 350 pounds lighter than the current F-150.¬†On the latest RAM 1500, only the tailgate and the hood are made entirely out of aluminum. Thanks to this, the full-size RAM truck lost 225 pounds.

Which strategy is better?

The new 2019 Chevy Silverado 1500 on display at the North American International Auto Show
2019 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 | Bill Pugliano/Getty Images

While Ford has enjoyed success after its switch to aluminum, the move attracted heavy criticism. In addition to disapproval from the competition, Ford also got some pushback from the steel industry. Steel organizations ended up losing a good chunk of money after automakers started using alternate materials.

At the time of the switch, Ford pickups were some of the heaviest trucks on the market. Because of this, making the switch from steel to aluminum made sense. Given the impressive sales of the Ford F-150, aluminum construction hasn’t been a detriment to its performance.

Both the Ram 1500 and the Chevy Silverado have a maximum towing capacity of 13,400 pounds. This is 400 pounds more than the all-aluminum F-150, but that’s only a small disadvantage. The F-150 still tops the other two in terms of fuel economy. Despite its unconventional construction, the F-150 is just as well-rounded as its rivals.