By converting its best-selling F-150 pickup from a steel body to aluminum, Ford is replacing the tried-and-true spot-welding process with a far more complex technique that uses a combination of rivets and industrial adhesives.
It’s a huge undertaking, loaded with risk, and even with Ford’s intense preparations, some wonder if the automaker is overconfident.
“We believe we’re ready,” said manufacturing whiz Joe Hinrichs, Ford’s president of the Americas.
But as AutoPacific analyst Dave Sullivan says: “Nobody’s riveted and glued at this speed yet. That’s the big unknown.”
Ford developed the process when it owned Jaguar Land Rover, which uses a variation of the system to build luxury aluminum-body vehicles such as the Range Rover and Jaguar F-Type in the United Kingdom. But those English factories don’t approach the line speeds Ford must hit with its most profitable vehicle — 60 jobs an hour.
“We really believe in the product and its execution,” Hinrichs said in an interview.
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