By Peggy Jo GoodFellow and Julie Murphree, Arizona Farm BureauIn August, the last steel-bodied 2014 Ford F-150 rolled off the line at Ford’s Dearborn Truck Plant. Ford had eight weeks to remove all the equipment and tooling and replace it with new machinery to make the all-new 2015 F-150 with an aluminum body. More than 1,100 tractor-trailers with new robots, conveyor systems and other equipment from across the country headed to Dearborn. They carried equally huge pieces of machinery away. Dearborn is the lead plant and thus the guinea pig. The new truck goes on sale this month in time for Ford Truck Month.

For Farm Bureau members that take advantage of the $500 rebate you'll love the new aluminum body of the F-150. Why? Less weight and more strength in the new trucks, according to Ford's technology and design team.

They've actually made the bodies stronger because of heat-treatment and the type of aluminum. The Ford engineers heat-treated it for strength and also made the aluminum mix thicker. Aluminum is a third as dense as steel so you can have three times the thickness before you have the same weight as steel. 

The new design cut 700 pounds from the F-150 2015 models. And if you don't think they can withstand your farm and ranch abuse knowing what you need a sturdy truck for, check in with the U.S. military and big-rig trucking companies. Humvees and Peterbilts have long used steel frames with aluminum bodies, much as Ford designed into the 2015 Ford F-150. 

"If you can use technology and materials to take weight out of the vehicle, you'll always end up with the best solution," said Pete Reyes, chief engineer for the 2015 Ford F-150 as quoted in a recent issue of Forbes Magazine. 

Computer-aided engineering tools (that were not available 10 years ago) have allowed Ford to design aluminum with steel-like strength.

In the meantime, Kansas City will continue to build the 2014 model through the end of the year, so dealers should not run out of the 2014 model any time soon. The Kansas City plant will shut down in early 2015 for its changeover, which should take less time because Ford already will have validated many of the processes in Dearborn.

The 2015 F-150s have all-new aluminum bodies.

Interesting Facts about the Dearborn Truck Plant:

¦ In August, about 1,100 tractor-trailers began to bring in new equipment and haul away old machinery to rebuild the body shop.

¦ More than 1,500 workers from Ford and its suppliers will be demolishing the old body shop and building a new one where they will make the 2015 F-150 out of aluminum

¦ Dearborn Truck produces about 1,200 F-Series trucks a day.

¦ It takes about 20 hours to produce one F-Series truck.

¦ Dearborn Truck employs about 3,600 employees.

¦ The plant is 2.6 million square feet with a 4.2-mile assembly line.

Eligible Arizona Farm Bureau members can download a $500 Bonus Cash certificate toward the purchase of new Ford vehicles at /member benefits/automotive.

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