Large Ford stores say cost of aluminum body shop will surpass $70,000

By Bradford Wernle, Automotive News

Michigan Ford dealer Ed Joliffe has been calculating the cost of getting his body shop ready for the 2015 aluminum F-150 pickup, and finds the numbers sobering.

“It’s going to cost anywhere from $50,000 to $100,000. That’s a hell of a chunk,” says Joliffe, who owns Gorno Ford in suburban Detroit.

“I don’t think it’s for the faint of heart. All the small shops won’t be able to touch it.”

He figures it could take five to seven years to recoup that investment, which he deems essential to stay in the body shop business.

Ford is targeting dealers with large body shops as it attempts to organize the F-150 aluminum body repair system. For those dealers, the investment will exceed the $30,000 to $50,000 Ford has cited for a single repair bay. Like Joliffe, many dealers say the cost could be $70,000 or more.

Ford’s effort is creating the Ford National Body Shop Network of dealers and independent shops capable — Ford shies away from the term “certified” — of large structural repairs. The network, whose members have the proper tools and training, will be Ford’s conduit for insurance company repair referrals.

Ford wants to assure customers and insurance companies that collision repair rates will be competitive with rates on the current steel-bodied truck. Those dealers and independent repair shops who invest in equipment and training can hang a Ford National Body Shop Network sign in their showrooms and will be listed on a body shop locator on ford.com.

By year end, Ford wants a network of about 1,500 aluminum-capable body shops, including its 460 dealerships and more than 1,000 independent shops.

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