[Updated with new program details]
Ford's decision to construct large portions of its 2015 F-150 out of weight-saving aluminum promises several benefits - chiefly improvements in fuel economy and payload capacity - but the move will also test the nation's repair shops. Just 10 percent of collision centers are equipped to work with aluminum body panels, which threatens higher repair bills that could lead to steeper insurance costs.
In order to help prevent that from happening, Ford will offer dealers a 20 percent rebate -- up to $10,000 -- on qualifying repair equipment. The deal is good for all Ford and Lincoln dealers enrolled in the automaker's 2015 Ford F-150 Collision Repair Program.
Mike Levine, a Ford spokesman, told Edmunds that the program will ensure "insurance costs and repair costs to consumers will be competitive with the current trucks."
Levine also noted that the 2015 F-150 features a modular design so some body parts can simply be swapped out for new ones in the event of a crash.
"What this means for car buyers is that in the event of an accident with the (2015) F-150, we've made it so it's designed for easy repair," he said. "It's easier to repair due to the modular body panels on some parts of the truck. This could save hours of labor time versus the previous truck."
Additionally, Ford will foot the bill entirely for one technician per dealership to complete an I-CAR technical training class.
Unveiled at the 2014 North American International Auto Show, the 2015 Ford F-150 is scheduled to arrive in dealer showrooms by the end of this year. Ford says it will have "a national network of repair facilities in place, comprised of both dealer and independent body shops, that will be capable of performing both minor and structural aluminum repairs" by the time the 2015 F-150 hits the market.
Photo by Mark Elias.