In marketing class, the professors like to talk about the “first-mover effect,” where being first may have more equity than being best. Indeed, Ford’s PR department is milking its new range of aluminum pickups, but the F-150 needed to go on a diet anyway. So how will General Motors respond when it’s time to redesign its Chevrolet and GMC pickups? GM may have something up its sleeve.
According to Automotive News, GM has an aluminum welding technique that upgrades its existing steel welding machinery to adapt it for aluminum welding. In other words, there’s no need for retooling if GM goes the aluminum route. “We can no longer bring out new vehicles that weigh the same or more as the competition. We have to be the best in the world at how we do vehicle design,” GM’s global product boss Mark Reuss has said.
As for this new process, the managing director of consulting firm Ducker Worldwide, Richard Schultz, feels: “It is a great leap. And I think that is very important. I don’t know of anyone else who has that. GM will not have to spend $359 million to retool a plant if they decide to do an aluminum Silverado.”
The new “multiring domed electrode” aluminum spot welding process is currently used to weld aluminum doors on the 2015 Cadillac CTS, aluminum liftgates of the 2015 Chevrolet Tahoe and Suburban, 2015 GMC Yukon and Yukon XL, and 2015 Cadillac Escalade and 2015 Escalade ESV, and the aluminum underbody of the C7 Corvette. Chances are we’ll see its use more intensively in the future.
“Our view is we want to be able to reuse our existing infrastructure. We don’t want to have to retool,” GM’s manufacturing systems research lab group manager, Blair Carlson.