GM Picks Up on Ford Example for En-lighten-ment

Maker moving to aluminum for trucks by 2018.

by on Feb.19, 2014

GM appears to be the next automaker moving to use aluminum body panels on its full-size pickup trucks.

The Great Pickup Truck War may be escalating to another level as General Motors is moving to match Ford’s F-150 by using aluminum body panels to save weight and increase fuel mileage by 2018.

The Detroit-based maker is feeling the pressure to keep up with Ford, which is being seen as an innovator by using the material, as well as to meet ever-toughening federal fuel standards, according to a story in the Wall Street Journal. GM officials declined to confirm it was focusing any specific material to cut weight on its trucks, but added it is examining all possibilities when it comes to materials and saving weight in its vehicles.

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GM secured deals with aluminum suppliers Alcoa and Novelis as part of the move for the next generation GM full-size truck, the paper reported.

Getting a deal done is critical as aluminum supplies are shrinking and this ensures the company will have a pipeline for the material.

Ford created a stir when it debuted its 2015 F-150 clad in military-grade aluminum panels. Along with using aluminum for other components, such as in the suspension, the company cut 700 pounds off the truck, which is critical with the looming mileage restrictions.

The impact is substantial. The maker isn’t ready to release fuel economy figures, the general industry rule of thumb is that each 100 pounds of mass a vehicle sheds translates into about one mile per gallon better fuel economy.

The truck certainly got the attention of at least one GM executive during the North American International Auto Show in Detroit last month.

(Ford’s new F-150 is an aluminum-intensive game-changer. For more, Click Here.)

“I want to get my hands on it,” Mark Reuss, executive vice president, Global Product Development, Purchasing and Supply Chain, told Automotive News during the show.

(Click Here to get the details on the Silverado winning the Truck of the Year.)

“I’m going to be looking at how much aluminum is in it. What are the panels? How are they constructed? I’m going to look at what they advertise as the weight savings from it. Then I’m going to go back and do some math.”

(To see how CNG may not be as green as first thought, Click Here.)

Initially, GM’s math led the maker to a plan to continue building its smaller, lighter mid-size trucks, the Chevrolet Colorado and the GMC Canyon, and focus efforts on shaking out excess weight on all of its truck offerings. However, those plans now include a greater emphasis on the use of aluminum despite the fact that GM just captured the 2014 Truck of the Year award for the Chevy Silverado last month.

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