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Tackling OEM aluminum training programs

Wednesday, August 19, 2015 - 07:00
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Many of us remember the futuristic vehicles in Demolition Man and like us you probably watched the movie and said, “Wow, cool cars. Too bad I will never see them in my lifetime.“ Well guess again — the future is basically here.

2016 Cadillac CT6

In 1997, Toyota introduced the Prius a Hybrid Electric Vehicle (HEV), which was the first mass-produced HEV, although HEVs were produced in the 1920s and 1930s in limited-production vehicles. Since the 1997 Toyota Prius, there has been the addition of at least 15 other HEVs from numerous OEMs, along with a few Electric Vehicles (EV) and clean diesel vehicles (Blue Tec). When the Prius showed up on the market, many repair professionals were scared of how to work on these vehicles and had to get trained on the safety procedures and protocols to repair HEVs. It is always the unknown and the change in thinking that scares everyone.

In the past 18 years since the introduction of the HEV, repair professionals and insurers have become more accustomed to the procedures and protocols required to work on these vehicles, due in part to training and repair manuals from the manufacturer that explain what has to be performed.    

The monocoque design has been used by most European OEs since the early 1930s, then the Japanese OEs in the 1960s and finally to the masses in 1979 with the Chevrolet Citation. The US insurance and collision repair industries were in an uproar and panic in 1979 over how to repair these vehicles — once again the unknown. Repair facilities were hard pressed to purchase frame repair equipment and new tools because of the cost and the assumption that they didn’t need to purchase all that fancy, expensive equipment. Well were they wrong. Aluminum vehicles have been around in European sports vehicles since the early 1900s. They were then mass produced in 1994 with the Audi A8, although this is was a high-end vehicle, rather than an every day vehicle. This year, aluminum has officially been introduced to the masses with the Ford F-150. History is repeating itself, and once again we are seeing panic, deception and sales pitches to the repair facilities. Hopefully we can clear some of this up. 

The newly redesigned 2016 BMW 7 Series will feature a hybrid construction monocoque design utilizing mild steel (MS), high-strength steel (HSS), advanced high-strength steel (AHSS), BORON alloyed steel, aluminum and carbon fiber reinforced plastic (CFRP). Some of the aluminum components are bonded with CFRP. This might be one of the most advanced designs we have seen to date. How many years before this design trickles down to economic vehicles?  

The 2016 Audi R8 will feature similar design components. Much like the start of the aluminum vehicles from the European OEs back in 1994 with the Audi A8, followed by other European OEs over the past 20 years, aluminum eventually reached the masses.  There are about 25 vehicles that are aluminum intensive and/or hybrid construction, and obviously the domestic OEs have noticed.

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