In the beginning, buyers didn’t worry about the metal used in building a truck bed because the only metal available was steel.
Steel had some problems though. The biggest problem was that it rusted. Even today, most steel starts to rust after only a year of use. Over time, a steel truck bed can slowly disintegrate.
When the all-aluminum truck bed came on the market in early 2000 it had a huge advantage over steel as a manufacturing material. Not only did aluminum resist rust and corrosion, it was also lighter. Aluminum Bed owners reported better gas mileage which added to its popularity.
All-aluminum beds tend to be more expensive than steel beds, however. And steel bed manufacturers claim aluminum beds just can’t withstand a heavy payload as well as a steel bed. This leaves buyers with a hard choice-do they pay more for an all-aluminum bed with its supposed superiority, or buy a more familiar steel bed and save money? Opinions vary wildly.
What are the facts, though? Is an all-aluminum bed really a better choice? Have steel bed manufacturers managed to overcome the material’s flaws? This article aims to answer that question.
According to a study of automakers conducted by Ducker Worldwide, by 2025 more than 75 percent of all new pickup trucks produced in North America will be aluminum-bodied. This confirms a major breakthrough for automotive aluminum into high-volume vehicles. According to the study Ford, General Motors and Fiat Chrysler will become the biggest users of aluminum sheet in the next decade. It also forecasts that the number of vehicles with complete aluminum body structures will reach 18 percent of North American production, from less than one percent today. The emerging aluminum content leaders are pickup trucks, SUVs and both mid-sized and full-size sedans.
By 2025 every leading automaker will have numerous aluminum body and closure programs. The use of aluminum sheet for vehicle bodies was 200 million pounds in 2012 and is said to increase to 4 billion pounds by 2025, this is due to the continued dramatic change in material mix for body and closure parts.
“The numbers tell a powerful story of aluminum’s explosive growth across the automotive sector,” said Tom Boney, chairman of the Aluminum Association’s Aluminum Transportation Group and vice president and general manager of automotive for Novelis in North America. “Within the next ten years, seven out of 10 new pickups produced in North America will be aluminum-bodied, and so too will be more than 20 percent of SUVs and full–sized sedans.”
“Aluminum-bodied cars and trucks are coming in a big way and soon. Consumers won’t visibly notice a different metal under the paint, but they’ll see greater savings at the gas pump and experience better performance and handling at the wheel,” added Boney.
Steel vs. aluminum? By choosing to build the 2015 F-150 with an all-aluminum body, Ford is shaving 700 pounds from the truck’s weight. And that’s a critical factor as automakers struggle to reach a 54.5 mpg fleet average by 2025. The F-150 has been America’s favorite vehicle for 32 years, so light weighting it—and reaching, maybe, 30 mpg on the highway—is really important to Ford.