Training for the Future: Comprehensive Strategy
Ford’s 2015 F-150 Collision Repair Program was designed to facilitate authorized Ford dealer collision centres and support independent shops in delivering OE grade repairs.
When Congress enacted new Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards that called for a tightening of fuel efficiency on both new cars and light trucks (culminating in a 4.3 L/100 km (54.5 mpg) fleet average by 2025), automakers had to look at a number of different options to ensure these targets could be met.
At Ford Motor Company, one of the biggest initiatives was to focus on weight savings for its highest volume vehicles, notably the best-selling F-150 pickup.
At the same time, Ford was acutely aware of the expectations of its customers, who wanted a new generation truck that was even more capable, smarter and tougher than before.
So how do you achieve significant weight savings while maintaining or exceeding the same levels of structural strength on the previous 2009-2014 F-150?
Don St-Amour, Service Engineering and Technical Training Manager for Ford Motor Company of Canada Ltd., says Ford’s approach was to use military grade high strength aluminum alloys for the vehicle’s body structure. “Because aluminum has a lower density than steel, we were able to use thicker body panels as well as adding structural reinforcements to achieve strength comparable to the previous generation F-150.”
The end result is a truck that’s approximately 318 kg (700 lbs) lighter than its predecessor, which has not only resulted in a vehicle that’s faster to accelerate, takes less time to stop and can tow and haul more while delivering better fuel economy, but a truck that’s also more resistant to dings and dents, as independent tests, including one by Edmunds.com in the U.S, revealed.
So manufacturing a game-changing pickup is one thing — but how do you ensure that there’s an infrastructure to support the vehicle once it hits the road? Given the sheer volume of sales generated by the F-150 and the number of customers that use these trucks for business purposes, an effective collision repair strategy for this vehicle was essential from day one.
Ford has developed specific repair procedures and guidelines for the new F-150. It has also worked with a number of equipment manufacturers to ensure repair equipment meets the automaker’s required standards. Ford has also gone to great lengths to ensure that Ford dealers that operate collision centres can enroll in the F-150 repair program.
St-Amour notes that the program includes training rebates for those Ford dealer collision centres that participate, as well as Service Engineer support to ensure these trucks can be repaired to pre-damage, original specifications.
While specific aluminum certification and repair capability is required for major repairs to the F-150, St-Amour also notes that many components, including bumpers, grilles, mirrors and minor dings and dents can be performed by most shops, even if they have yet to achieve full aluminum certification.
A big part of ensuring collision repairs are performed to the highest standard revolves around using genuine OE parts for collision repairs. For the F-150 program, Ford has not placed restrictions on which collision facilities can purchase Ford Genuine OEM collision repair parts, though the automaker stresses that shops need to invest in both the required training (such as structural repair courses provided through I-CAR Canada) and the approved repair equipment to ensure they are capable of handling the new F-150.
St-Amour also notes that there are no significant differences between Canada and the U.S. when it comes to collision repair support and training programs for the current F-150.
With a continuing need to minimize cycle times during the collision repair process, Ford designed and engineered the 2015 model year F-150 to ensure that sections of the truck would be easier and less time consuming to repair than in the past.
Components include the front apron tube, which can be repaired without having to remove the instrument panel; floor pans and rocker panels that can be sectioned without having to replace the entire unit; and B-pillars that can be repaired without affecting the roof section of the cab.
Not only are these features beneficial from a collision shop and insurance claim perspective, they benefit fleet owners, who will also see significant cost savings, since vehicles can be repaired faster and put back into service.
St-Amour notes that Ford’s new F-150 builds on the automaker’s previous experience in aluminum body parts, including hood assemblies, which were first introduced on the 1997 F-150. And, combined with other features such as sturdier frame with more high-strength steel, more efficient powertrains, including a new 2.7-litre EcoBoost V6 engine with Auto Stop/Start technology and aspects such as 360 degree camera system, remote locking tailgate, integrated loading ramps and a trailer hitch assist, Ford has aimed to ensure not only that the new F-150 is cost-effective to operate, but that the overall concept of utility and practicality in pickup ownership is taken to the next level.