Chevy Fires Another Shot at Ford's Aluminum F-150


The latest salvo in the Chevrolet versus Ford pickup truck battle has been fired by Chevy, and it's a big one. Chevrolet claims that while performing standard benchmark performance testing, in which the company puts competitor vehicles through the same tests as its own trucks to determine how they perform, it discovered that the stamped aluminum used for the 2016 F-150's bed was susceptible to damage from dropped items. GM engineers documented how the Ford's stamped aluminum bed was much more likely to be punctured when a special 17-pound wedge, simulating a pointed load, was dropped onto it than the Silverado 1500's roll-formed high-strength steel bed. While the 2016 Silverado 1500's bed remained intact at up to 90 joules of energy, the F-150's bed showed damage at 30 joules; the wedge created holes at 40 joules.

Smelling blood, Chevrolet then produced a series of tests that it says simulate real-world conditions that truck owners might encounter. One involved dropping a load of 55 landscaping blocks weighing about 825 pounds into the beds of both the Silverado and the F-150 from 5 feet above the bed to simulate receiving a load from a skid loader at a job site. In 12 trials that were recorded by video, Chevy says that the Silverado received only minor scratches and dents, while the F-150's bed was punctured every time, on the order of 4.3 punctures per trial. A second test was much more mundane and frankly a little more believable — it simulated a 32-pound empty steel Snap-On toolbox accidentally sliding off the truck bed's side rail and into the bed. In that test, the Silverado was dented 12 out of 14 times, and received "pinhole" punctures in two trials. The F-150 bed floor was dented once and punctured 13 times during the toolbox test.

Chevrolet is presenting the findings as an unusually long two-minute advertisement airing on ESPN, with shorter 30- and 60-second spots to follow. The company claims that it isn't taking a swipe at the Ford F-150 or the use of aluminum, merely pointing out a competitive advantage for customers to keep in mind, but that's clearly not the case. Chevrolet marketing claims that it is simply looking out for consumers' interests. Ford's reply to the new advertisement has been to call the testing a "marketing stunt."

GM has been mum on exactly what its next-generation full-size pickups will use for lighter weight materials, but a recent event outlining the company's efforts in that regard have pointed to a more measured, targeted approach in the use of lightweight materials. Unlike Ford's "aluminum everything" approach, GM has made concerted efforts across all of its new vehicles to strategically use a variety of materials, including aluminum, high-strength steel, magnesium and composite plastics. It seems safe to say, however, that it doesn't look like Chevy will be using an aluminum bed floor anytime soon.

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Detroit Bureau Chief Aaron Bragman has had over 25 years of experience in the auto industry as a journalist, analyst, purchasing agent and program manager. Bragman grew up around his father’s classic Triumph sports cars (which were all sold and gone when he turned 16, much to his frustration) and comes from a Detroit family where cars put food on tables as much as smiles on faces. Today, he’s a member of the Automotive Press Association and the Midwest Automotive Media Association. His pronouns are he/him, but his adjectives are fat/sassy. Email Aaron Bragman

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