SEMA: What the Aftermarket Thinks About the New F-150


Anytime you get members of an industry together under a single roof, you are bound to encounter a wide variety of opinions. And that's exactly what we found during the recent Specialty Equipment Market Association Show in Las Vegas. We asked large and small companies what they thought about the new 2015 F-150's change from steel to aluminum.

If you think the half-ton truck market is brutal, just imagine how much more vicious the aftermarket parts industry is. Hundreds of small and large businesses compete to sell products for pickup trucks that allow owners to work smarter, harder or longer or use their vehicles to play longer, harder or smarter.

The companies whose products have nothing to do with a truck's exterior or bed could care less about Ford's switch. However, companies that make storage boxes, bed parts or products that need to fasten to body walls or quarter panels will have to invest in significant research and development. But they reminded us that's the way it's always been.

The common theme that came through in all of our discussions was the fact that these companies are used to coming up with creative solutions to keep pace with truckmakers' design and engineering changes, and maintain their competitive advantage. Since this is the norm, the aftermarket companies we spoke with say Ford's shift in materials is no different than other truckmaker changes that affect them.

"Nobody's fooled about why Ford's gone that way," said an engineer from axle manufacture Dynatrac. "They all have to do something big to get in line with the government regulations … this is a straight fuel-economy play and if they don't have the engine tech to make it happen, they'll have to do this [use lighter materials] — or maybe they'll eventually do both."

The aerospace industry understood the benefits of going to aluminum long ago, and maybe that's why many in the industry weren't surprised to see this material change come from Alan Mulally, Ford's former president and CEO. He came to the Blue Oval from Boeing.

Just like Ford, some of the aftermarket companies at SEMA are using similar light-weighting techniques. Dynatrac is creating several new products (mostly for the 4x4 market) that use strong aluminum in axle center sections, knuckles and elsewhere to save significant amounts of weight. There's no doubt, a spokesman told us, that working with aluminum takes tons of extra training and facility upgrading, but the advantages could override the expense relatively soon.

A major suspension company said it wasn't too concerned about Ford's changeover because what's on the outside of a truck really isn't all that important anyway. The spokesman noted that if someone decides to use exotic materials on the frame or important chassis components, that could send shockwaves through the industry in a devastating way. He also said that even with the 10-year contracts Ford has been talking about regarding its aluminum supply, it wouldn't take too many dominoes to tumble to throw the whole production game out of whack. We'll just have to wait and see.

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There isn't much of a concern as to the change in materials affecting fastening. Most accessories for the box either require drilling and bolting or simply screwing the accessories into the bed. Some use factory stake holes which have NEVER been "tear out" rated. Others use factory anchor points as attachment points. The only real issue is galvanic corrosion with metal fasteners. That will be the main required change.

Because of the psychological factor mostly men will be overcompensating because of the reduction in weight. Because once you are seated in a vehicle this size we expect a muscle monster one to be hefty not whimpy. So expect more accidents.

@ Lou, as usual, I tend to agree. Fasteners will be the main focus. Given this is Ford's truck however, I'm sure it has been addressed with scrutiny. We're not talking Chevy post 1972 or 1998 here. This is Ford. The thick gauge material is such a plus. A breath of fresh air in the midst of tin foil bodied, rust prone steel trucks of today. Including Ford's current model post 2009. The durability of the old gauged steel is back.

Hey ED, it's COULDN'T care less. If he COULD care less, then he'd care at least a small amount.

For example: Timmy has two M&Ms in his hand. He could carry less because he is carrying some M&Ms. In his other hand, he havs no M&Ms, hence he cannot carry less.

I welcome the change. If it costs a little more, so be it. Provided it doesn't skyrocket. Imagine the bodyshop repair bill for the current thin metal. It can't even be welded or repaired from my understanding. Only replaced. That's not only expensive to the consumer but the insurance companies also. A rusted or dented up thin metal body bed would be thousands. If the aluminum is thick and durable, everybody wins really. Who would want a carburetor if you could have fuel injection for roughly the same money?

The current thin metal has caused PDR to skyrocket in use. A car or truck with major hail damage can be repaired in a day without the need to repaint in most cases. Miner dents and dings can be poped out for far cheaper then in the old days of body filler and repaints. PDR will not be able to used on the new Aluminum and minor dings will be way more expensive to fix.

Most people commenting on the current metal have no idea what they are talking about. Today's high strength steel is stronger then the old steel so a thinner a thinner guage can be used. manufacturers also the way the mount it allows it to compress more as apposed to a solid piece of steel that doesn't have any give in the panel so when a car door hits automatic ding instead of the hole panel compressing a bit and popping back out.

I would really be careful of what I bought as an accessory for this new aluminium truck.

I would look at how any item is fitted to the vehicle. I would look for doublers and added reinforcements for any item attached to the bed or any aluminium component.

A doubler is similar to a patch or using a larger washer when additional support is required.

Aluminium does have one disadvantage, it is weaker than steel and it more prone to fracturing, especially the higher tensile materials.

If a person doesn't have a clue, find someone who does before investing in any aftermarket gear. Hopefully any Ford accessory will be tested and assessed.

@Big Al & Lou BC--You would have to get accessories specific to the 2015 F-150 because you would not want any metal fastners that would cause the aluminum to corrode. I would think that the fastners would be aluminum with plastic washers or something that would not corrode. It is possible that some of the more permanent accessories would be affixed with industrial type glue. I don't know as much about this except my own experience with aluminum where the nuts, bolts, washers, and fastners were steel and as a result there was corrosion. I am sure that Ford would have something in the owner's manual or somewhere warning owners what type of accessories should not be added because of corrosion.

@Big Al--Wouldn't you also have to be more aware of the amount of torque used when using bolts and fastners on aluminum?

@Big Al from Oz, JeffS - the only accessories I'd add are a canopy and cargo rack. The canopy can be held on by clamps and the cargo rack has pins that slide into the stake pockets. Unless they have changed the stake pockets there almost always are holes through the pockets for tie downs or bolts. A headache rack might be the only other bed accessory I'd consider other than a box liner. The rest would be bolt on accessories to the frame or different running boards.

If I had to buy a new truck I'd be more inclined to downsize. My wife is chickening out about having a larger camper trailer since our friend's 30 ft camper is being stored in our yard. Since we are now looking at tent trailers (adventure style with cargo deck), a Tacoma or Colorado would do just fine.

Here's a roof top tent. It's on the back of a Hilux. Some guys at work are using these an there are some quite nice one's around.

I'm extremely careful with accessories.

I fitted a soft tonneau, bull bar (no winch), rims/rubber and driving lights. I will not use a plastic bed liner.

Here are some issues that must be considered when buying stuff.

A guy at work bought a global Ranger and fitted an ARB bulbar and 12000lb winch.

Because the chassis in the horn region is designed to concertina the flex of the additional 40kg has cracked the inner guard or fender. The hood latch broke.

I do believe the new F-150 has an almost "cut and paste" chassis horn. Something to consider. Also, I do believe most future pickups will have similar issues regarding the additional weight forward of the front axle.

Fitting a canopy is quite common here. I do believe it's done because it is cheaper than buying a SUV. Hard covers, those plastic boxes, dividers, etc in a pickup bed are silly. Why not just buy a SUV.

@Jeff S,
You can use any material in a fastener with aluminium, so long it is insulated to remove the galvanic or dissimilar metal process. But even then the area must be kept clean from minerals and salts, etc.

Aluminium will last a long time if maintained, look at the 30 year old aircraft flying around. Strength with aluminium is in how an item is fastened. Even riveting will require a supporting washer to prevent pull throughs under load.

If done correctly aluminium shouldn't be a problem, again it will be more expensive to use.

@Big Al from Oz - the advantage to a canopy is the fact that it is not permanent and easy to donn or doff. I like them in the winter or trips where I'm not packing bikes.

A hard cover is the canopy Lou is speaking of. I would get one of these because they are cheaper than vans and you can remove it and use it like a pickup.

@Lou BC--Is a canopy the same as a truck cap or is it just a hard cover similar to a tonne? The Colorado is a nice sized truck.

Big Al--True, but you would need something like a rubber or neoprene gasket or seal. It is a little hard to completely prevent corrosion when salt is used on roads to melt ice and snow. l would think that the industrial glue would be better at bonding aluminum than rivets because of the pull through even with the supporting washers.

@Jeff S,
At work we can use just a smear of a sealant or similar material between the fasteners and joins, etc.

The problem with aluminium moisture. Moisture mixes with minerals and form a very conductive path for ions to pass through.

Aluminium will work for a vehicle, people will just have to treat them a little differently to protect the vehicle.

@Jeff S - canopy or cap - same thing. I don't like tonneau covers. Why buy a truck and turn it into a limousine with a stretched trunk.

@Big Al--I would probably smear something between the fasteners and the joints just as a precaution.

@Lou BC--I will admit that I put a tonneau cover on my Isuzu and being black and 4 doors it does look like a limo, my wife wanted the cover and the running board steps. I wasn't sure so I asked. I use to see a lot of pickups with caps on them but it seems to be rare today (even the tonneau covers were more common than they are now with most trucks having open beds). I have the Weather Tech tinted window clip ons which help with the sun and act like a roof gutter--I really like those and have those on my two trucks and the CRV. I also have mud guards on all vehicles. I really like the Weather Tech products and even have their all weather floor mats in my S-10. Since I keep my vehicles a long time I would rather equip them the way I want.

Because not everyone has manicured roads to drive on and dust will get through everything or wet in the rain. A tonneau is the easiest and cheapest option in protecting a small load in the bed. My tonneau cost $150 and it's was worth every cent. My tent/camping/fishing gear or my luggage doesn't get wet or dusty.

Old limo's also used tonneau's for the very same reason.

@Big Al--True, the tonneau cover works well in protecting items stored under it and also increases fuel economy. My cover has an aluminum lip affixed to the bed which the cover seals around (similar to how Tupper Ware works). The only bad thing is when it gets cold it is hard to reseal.

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