Aluminum F-150 Pickup Debate Heats Up – Blog Post from The Windsor Star

Posted on May 30th, 2014

Grace Macaluso wrote an interesting blog post for The Windsor Star last week that we wanted to share with our readers:

Dianne Craig narrows her eyes and purses her lips when the Ford of Canada president is asked to respond to skepticism from a competitor over whether the aluminum F-150 pickup would live up to its billing.

“Here’s my response,” Craig said and launched a sharp, staccato counter-offensive at comments made by Chrysler Group CEO Sergio Marchionne. “We’ve been the Number One seller of full-size pickups for 48 years. We know pickups. We know F-150. And if there’s any company that’s got street credibility in the full-size pickup segment, it’s Ford.”

Set to arrive in dealerships later this year, the aluminum-bodied F-150 is an industry first dubbed by some observers as a game-changer in the lucrative pickup truck segment in North America.

It has also garnered public poo-pooing from some of Ford’s rivals. At the May 6 Fiat Chrysler Automobiles five-year product plan unveiling in Auburn Hills, MI., Marchionne said while he was closely watching the Ford launch, he doubted that aluminum was the way to go in the pickup segment.

“We will watch with some intensity the launch of the F-150,” he said. “We internally have reservations about whether aluminum is the answer. I think the use of aluminum in our world is better used on products other than the pickup.”

Marchionne also was confident that “the mileage of the 3L EcoDiesel Ram today is better than what Ford will have with the aluminum F-150.”

Chrysler has declared the new 1500 EcoDiesel the industry’s most fuel-efficient light duty truck, promising up to 40 mpg on the highway.

Ford has yet to release the aluminum pickup’s fuel economy, but Craig said “it will certainly be significantly better” than the current model.

“Fuel economy is one of the most important reasons consumers choose vehicles over others,” said Craig in a recent interview with the Star. “So, we’re so excited about this.”

The auto industry’s need to improve gas mileage can’t be overstated amid ever tightening government regulations. Fuel economy standards will double between 2010 and 2025, said Peter Frise, executive director at Auto21 Network of Centres of Excellence, headquartered at the University of Windsor. “Ford’s plan for the aluminum F-150 marks a profound change” said Frise.

The Dearborn, MI automaker has a lot at stake in its radical makeover of the F-150 – the top selling vehicle in the U.S. for 32 years and 48 years in Canada.

Last year, U.S. sales of F-150 pickups totaled 763,402 compared to 480,414 GM Silverado sales and 355,673 Ram sales, according to statistics compiled by Forth place ranking was help by the GMC Sierra with 184,389 sales.

In Canada, roughly one out of every six car buyers, or 17 percent purchased a full-size truck last year.

Detroit Three automakers have been the perennial leaders in the pickup segment, ceding little ground to their Japanese rivals.

Although the aluminum version of the F-150 will be 318 kg (700 pounds) lighter, it will still offer all the capability expected by pickup owners, said Craig.

It will be offered with a variety of engines, including the 5.0L, V-8 assembled at the Essex Engine Plant in Windsor.

While it’s new to the full-size pickup segment, aluminum is not new to the auto industry. It is widely used on sporty, low volume cars, like the Tesla Model S Electric sedan and Land Rover Range Rover SUV.

Though he downplayed the possibility of an aluminum Ram pickup, Marchionne suggested that the Jeep Wrangler would be the Chrysler Group vehicle best suited to sport a lighter-weight body.

And he suggested it wouldn’t take long for the carmaker to incorporate aluminum into its product line. “We can do aluminum in 2017,” Marchionne said. “We have the technology in-house.”

Craig said Ford’s bold step in the pickup segment reflects the automaker’s goal to be the first out of the gate with cutting-edge vehicles.

“At Ford, we are all about innovation,” she said. “This is just another example of what we’ve done with our company over the last decade.”

‘It’s all about product and staying ahead of the competition.”


The Pros and Cons of Electric Vehicles

Posted on May 22nd, 2014

Electric cars are becoming more and more popular, and like all new technology, they have their ups and downs.

Pros of Electric Cars

1. Great for the environment (zero emission vehicles). Eliminating car emissions and reducing your carbon footprint is a major step toward improving the environment.

2. Gas Prices.  You never have to worry about increasing gas prices.

3. Tax Incentives. The government will issue tax credits to people who purchase eco-friendly cars. These credits usually amount to around $7,000, which is a significant chuck of the vehicles price.

4. More Products on the Way. In the next few years we will see many new makes and models of electric vehicles. You will have a much wider selection from which to choose a vehicle that meets your own individual tastes.

5. Less Frequent Maintenance. Electric cars do not endure the same level of stress that vehicles with conventional engines do. They do not require periodical oil changes and other routine maintenance that traditional vehicles need.

6. Fast Acceleration and a Quiet, Smooth Drive. You will not hear a loud rumbling noise when you start the vehicle, or while driving it. Electric cars also have a fast, smooth acceleration.

Cons of Electric Cars

1. Charging Stations. If you purchase an electric car, you will also have to invest in a electric charging station for your home. These can be costly, especially if you want one with a higher voltage.

2. Waiting for the charge. If you are not charging your vehicle over night, you will have to wait for it to charge. Depending on the voltage of the charging station this can take anywhere from 6 to 12 hours for a full charge.

3. Finding a Charge Station Along the Road. When traveling it may be difficult to find a charge station in your general vicinity. They are slowly adding more and more stations, but we still do not have as many as we need.

4. Distance. Electric vehicles will not take you as far as a tank of gas will.  The average electric car can go anywhere from 40 to 100 miles on one charge.

5. Battery Replacement. The batteries in electric cars have a shelf life, and unfortunately they can be costly to replace. Batteries can last anywhere from 5 to 12 years depending on the vehicle and how often you drive it.

6. Fast Growing Technology. Electric cars are due to get bigger and better as technological advances continue. Current models will soon be replaced with newer models that have longer battery lives and shorter charge times. This will make older models much less valuable for re-sale.

So the decision is yours. Take one for a test drive and see if it is the car for you.


Choosing the Right Car Seat for Your Child

Posted on May 14th, 2014

There are many things to consider when choosing a car seat for your child. It may seem overwhelming with the number of features, brands and options that are available to you. Here is a condensed list of some of the main considerations to look at when making your choice:

Suitability for your child (weight/convenience): There are different types of car seats depending on the child’s weight, size, and convenience of use.

Infant (Baby Car Seat)- Designed for infants weighing 5  to 22 pounds and is always used rear-facing in the car. This type of car seat is lightweight and has a carrying handle for easy transportation of your baby.  Many offer a separate base which allows the parent to snap the seat easily in and out of the car.

Convertible Car Seat-  If an infant seat doesn’t meet your needs, the alternative is a convertible seat. A convertible car seat accommodates both infants and toddlers; it is used in the rear-facing position for infants, and forward-facing position for toddlers. Unfortunately the convertible car seats cannot be used as carriers or in stroller systems.  Once your child outgrows their infant seat they must be moved into a convertible seat for toddlers weighing 20 to 65 pounds.

Booster Car Seat – When your child reaches approximately 40 pounds, it’s time to move them into a booster car seat. These seats accommodate children from approximately 30 to 100 pounds and are designed to use your car’s seat belts.

3-in-1 Convertible Car Seat – These all-in-one car seats are designed to grow with your child from infant to toddler, as well as becoming a belt-positioning booster for an older child. They can accommodate children weighting approximately  5 to 110 pounds, so you only have to buy one unit for all the stages of your child’s growth.

Suitability for your car: Take a look at the shape of your vehicles seats, length of the seat belts, and position of the seat belt anchor points. Not all car seats fit well in all vehicles, so make sure you pick out a good match your car.

Instructions and ease of use: Are the instruction easy to understand and follow? Is the car seat easy to use and manipulate?

5 point harness: A form of seat belt that contains five straps that are mounted to the car frame. Two are located at the shoulders, two at the hips, and one at the crotch that all come to connect to a buckle release mechanism.

Head and side impact protection and EPS foam: Seats with head and side impact protection are designed to cradle your baby better in the event of an accident. EPS foam provides added cushion and support.

LATCH:  Is a system meant to make it easier to install child car seats. Instead of using seatbelts to secure the seats, LATCH employs attachments that use the lower anchors and tethers found in vehicles and on child car seats.

Weight of Carrier: This is a practical point to consider because a lot of times you carry your baby in the car seat.

Make sure you do your research and pick the car seat that is right for you.

NOTE: After an accident, the majority of the time your car seat will have to be replaced as well. Even if you cannot physically see any problems with the seat or base, there may be stress cracks that are not visible. It
is very important that you replace your car seat for the safety of your children.



2013 AND BEYOND – By Michael Pistol

Posted on May 8th, 2014

This is an excerpt from a great article that we came across in Collision Repair Magazine. We wanted to share it with our readers as it gives insight into the future of the collision industry.

Innovation and the Future of the Collision Industry – By Michael Pistol  

Innovation within the automotive sector has always brought major technological advances, but the pace of innovation is speeding up and the industry is on the brink of a new technological revolution that may have far reaching implications for the traditional automotive value chain and beyond, especially in the area of collision repair.

Let’s have a look at the innovations that will challenge the collision industry, immediately and in the longer term:

The trend towards increasing use of advanced high strength steel in favour of traditional mild steel is already well established. However, research is currently underway to bring much more exotic materials to the table. Carbon Fibre certainly isn’t new, but it’s extremely high cost has seen use limited to race cars and the luxury sports market. That hasn’t stopped a number of automakers and other corporations from funding research into dropping the cost of production and searching for simpler forming methods. Those projects have started paying off in some cases, so we can expect to see more and more carbon fibre appearing in mid-range vehicles.

More manufacturers are producing full aluminum vehicles, and each automaker has restricted who is authorized to repair these vehicles.

Aluminum is now the second most common material used in vehicle construction today, and currently in the North American auto market, average content has increased almost 24 percent over the past five years.

The manufacturers’ motives for placing restrictions on who can repair their vehicles are simple. They want to assure the vehicle is repaired properly and that the quality and customer repair experience are appropriately managed.

The days when a collision technician could look at the original vehicle construction and replicate that process in the repair are gone. We are likely going to see more and more manufacturers starting certified collision repair programs.  Under most programs, shops will likely need to be sponsored by a local dealership to even apply for the program. Assuming a shop owner can line up this sponsorship, it still needs to be determined if the shop will have enough potential volume of these vehicles to justify the needed investment in equipment and training.

This isn’t just a matter of aluminum construction, of course. The same type of situation also applies to alloy and other component materials. Shops can no longer rely on observing the manufacturer’s assembly technique and replication procedure. Most shops, in turn, must increasingly begin to rely on specific manufacturer collision repair information to properly complete their repairs.

We’ve seen a lot of news in the recent months regarding new collision avoidance technology and its big brother, the fully autonomous vehicle. In addition to Google’s famous driverless car, Continental and Audi also have permits to test their autonomous vehicles on Nevada’s highways. Both Volvo and Nissan recently showcased new, self-driving vehicles that maintain speed and direction devoid of any driver interactions. The cars are concept, but could become production vehicles in the coming years.

How will the insurance industry react to these vehicles, should they become a feature on our streets? Insurance is largely a matter of determining risk. It’s difficult to determine the statistical risk of a completely new factor. At first, insurance companies will most likely simply insure these vehicles without regard to their self-driving capability. The human driver will be considered to be in charge at all times. In any case, there are no current plans to rollout these vehicles. That we will see them hit the streets at some point seems almost certain, but it will be few years down the road at least.

Collision avoidance technology, on the other hand, is already becoming more widespread. While most cars in the Canadian vehicle fleet still do not have this technology, it’s only a matter of time until it is fleet wide. The estimated time for this new technology to percolate into 95 per cent of the vehicle fleet is about 20 years.

Few people will disagree that this will mean a lower number of collisions. However, it is still important to remember how most collision avoidance systems work: the cars sensors detect an imminent collision and signal the driver to do something about it. In some cases at least, this may not prevent the accident entirely, but simply reduce its severity. We will definitely see fewer collisions, but we may see fewer write-offs as well.

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