Truck manufacturers along with government regulators are pushing equipment suppliers toward efficient, lightweight designs. Steel is losing traction in every market segment—from pickup trucks and automobiles, to truck equipment and van bodies. There are no exceptions.
Besides Walsh Construction, Ford also gave Barrick Gold Corp. of Elko, Nev., prototype F-150 pickups featuring high-strength aluminum cargo beds to test. One of the test vehicles is shown here. (Photo credit: Ford)
Written by Matthew de Paula, Forbes Contributor
No matter how many different ways the Ford research group in charge of rethinking the F-150 pickup looked at improving its fuel economy, it was always the same answer that popped up.
“If you can use technology and materials to take weight out of the vehicle, you’ll always end up with the best solution,” says Pete Reyes, chief engineer for the 2015 Ford F-150.
The main goal in developing the new full-size pickup, which goes on sale later this year and has sparked controversy over its weight-saving aluminum body, was to increase efficiency without compromising capability. Alternative powertrains were considered, so was downsizing. But always it came back to the weight, Reyes says—the less of it, the better.
The solution that the team came up with was revolutionary as pickups go: Use an aluminum body instead of a steel one to cut 700 pounds from the F-150 in one fell swoop. But the change had its detractors, both inside and outside of the company, Reyes says. To some, aluminum was nothing more than the stuff of soda cans; it could not possibly stand up to the severe abuse pickup trucks must endure.
WATERVILLE — F3 MFG is proud to sustain its ranking as Maine’s third-fastest growing company according to Inc. 5000, a ranking it first achieved in 2017. Nationally, the automotive body and accessory manufacturer rose from no. 1,317 to no. 868 on business magazine Inc.’s annual report of the top 5,000 fastest-growing businesses in the United States. Rankings are based on revenue growth rate over a three-year period; F3 MFG has achieved a 490% revenue growth rate over three years to reach $17.2 million in 2018. Of the fastest growing companies in Maine, F3 MFG has the second-highest revenue.
“Our success is due to the F3 team and the dedication the three of us have to remain the leader in the market,” Bill Cleaves says of his two co-founders, Tom Sturtevant and Joyce Galea. “Our industry was stagnant – we came in and changed the status quo.”
From Automakers to the U.S. Military, Those in the Know Trust Aluminum
If you’re like many people, when you hear the word “aluminum”, you think of everyday convenience items that, while incredibly useful, don’t exactly convey a high-strength image. And it’s true – aluminum is a highly versatile metal – meaning it can be processed to be thin, lightweight, bendable and even crushable by human hands.
There’s a Market Change taking Place
For anyone buying or selling truck equipment, there’s a market change in action that impacts us all. There’s a significant shift away from heavy steel to strong, lightweight aluminum. This is a transition that we’ve witnessed for the last 10 years in aluminum trailers and one that we’re watching play out now with Ford trucks...