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SPECIAL REPORT: Ford, Assured Performance Network Take Sledgehammer to Edmunds.com Demonstration

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Feb. 4, 2015—A popular video from Edmunds.com—where its editorial team takes a sledgehammer to a quarter panel on an aluminum-bodied 2015 Ford F-150, and records its repair process in order to demonstrate how aluminum repairs compare to steel in terms of price and time—has made the rounds on the Internet over the past week, and the video has drawn some flack from consumers and members of Ford’s camp as well.

The team at Edmunds took the damaged truck to a Ford dealership collision facility near its Santa Monica, Calif., headquarters, and came back with a bill of $2,938 to fix the damages. They were told aluminum repairs would take roughly twice as long as steel repairs, and normally the dealer charges $120 per hour for aluminum work. Edmunds was quoted that the repair would take roughly 20 hours of labor, where the same job on a steel-bodied F-150 would only take about 10 hours.

However, the California dealer shop gave Edmunds its normal price of $60 per hour for labor. But, since Edmunds was subject to a reduced price in labor, the report estimated that the cost of the repairs to the aluminium F-150 would run $4,138.44 under normal circumstances.

Ford came out and made its qualms with the research conducted by Edmunds public, and the U.S. automaker isn’t alone.

Scott Biggs, president and CEO at Assured Performance Network, is working with Ford, among other car companies, to help ensure proper aluminum repair processes are put in place in order to build a national network of OE certified collision shops.

In an email exchange, Biggs outlined some of the ways he was concerned by the actions put forth by the Edmunds editorial team, and the Ford dealership they went to for repairs.

“Repair of aluminum will vary between vehicles,” Biggs said. “The 2015 F-150 was specifically designed in a modular fashion with repairability in mind. The result of this engineering process is that repairing the new 2015 F-150 is significantly less invasive in many cases, but probably not from a sledgehammer.”

Biggs went on to say that the nature of the damage is unrealistic for a body shop to really expect on an everyday basis, and that the Ford dealer may have found itself ill-equipped to handle such a repair in terms of economics.

“Unless you have an irate ex-girlfriend right out of a country western song, two sledgehammer dents to your new truck is not a normal hit of any kind. What made it difficult to evaluate as a ‘study’ was that the impact and repair was not performed in a comparative or controlled fashion,” Biggs says. “Another concerning aspect of their demonstration was that the repair was not performed by a Ford Certified body shop nor according to Ford's recommended repair procedures in an isolated area using special tools strictly for aluminum repair.”

“The whole argument about pricing seemed premature,” Biggs adds. “Beyond the specific technical repair procedures, ultimately, market dynamics determine the cost of repairing any vehicle. … The actual time that a shop takes to perform a repair may evolve as they gain experience and become more efficient. Because the 2015 aluminum design is new, the market dynamics have not yet impacted the costs or the shop's ability to accurately project the repair time necessary. As the shop gains more experience, these unique elements will become standard practices and the costs will no doubt reflect that fact.”  

Biggs did say the demonstration didn’t leave people without learning something about the new pickup, though.

“More than anything,” Biggs says, “the demonstration illustrated just how tough the 2015 F150 aluminum body is since it withstood two hits by a 25-lb. sledgehammer that might have pierced the walls of my 2013 truck. That was impressive.”

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