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Aluminum Has Arrived

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We’ve been writing about the growing  use of new metals and aluminum in vehicle production for years now. We’ve watched the topic progress from “this might be the next big thing” to “this is just around the corner” to “this is here now” in what seems like a very short span of time, covering the procedures, tools and equipment shops need to properly repair these stronger, lighter vehicles.

At times, it has felt as though these advancements were eons away. But things have heated up recently, beyond the use of aluminum in more exotic vehicles, like the Teslas that our Case Study shops repair.   

These last couple of months—when Ford started making announcements about its aluminum-bodied 2015 F-150 and plans for training shops to fix the new truck—really illustrate how far vehicle construction has come. The new F-150, which Ford says will be roughly 700 pounds lighter than its steel-bodied predecessor, represents the dawn of a new era in vehicle construction and repair. 

These mass-produced trucks, and the other aluminum-bodied vehicles that are sure to follow, will be in shops in no time. The Aluminum Association expects an average of 550 pounds of aluminum per vehicle to be the norm by 2025. If you’ve been waiting for a good reason to prepare your shop for aluminum repairs, there it is. The country’s most popular pickup is kicking off the movement, and if you can’t fix it, the vehicle will soon be heading to the shops that can. 

According to a January estimate by Automotive Service Association chairman Darrell Amberson, less than 10 percent of shops in the U.S. meet the certification and equipment requirements necessary to work on aluminum vehicles. I’m sure we’ll see that number increase dramatically in coming years.

And as this change unfolds, there are others to watch, such as the loudening buzz around carbon fiber’s greater presence in vehicle construction. This still seems to be in the “this might be the next big thing” stage, but with pressure on automakers to meet strict CAFE standards, we could see the material go mainstream in a hurry. BMW’s electric i3, for instance, is made largely of carbon fiber.

You can find more on carbon fiber and aluminum repairs in FenderBender later this year.

This month, however, we hone in on strategies you can use today to build business, with an emphasis on marketing. In Bryce Evans’ story, “The Masters of Marketing,” he taps four of the industry’s top marketing experts to get their best advice for gaining new customers. Their strategies can be used at any shop to begin building your customer base today.

 In the Strategy section, you’ll find out how to develop contingency plans for slow periods in the shop, how to find a business coach that can take your operation to the next level, and what documentation you need to get in order if the time has come to sell your business.

Enjoy the read and get in touch if you’d like to offer your own insight to us or your industry peers. Who knows, maybe you’ve got a lead on the next big thing.

Jake Weyer, Editor

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