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Meeting at Future Ford was fitting, because every collision expert believes that the F-150 is going to eventually be the future of the industry, as more and more manufacturers join the rush to aluminum. The big question in the room and also in the minds of every body shop owner in this country right now is 'Will there be enough F-150s out there to justify the costs and training involved?' After polling the room of approximately 70 people, not one single shop has yet seen one of these vehicles in their shop or even heard of one being fixed.
The featured speaker for the evening was Victor Barrera, a representative from RMD Group in San Jose, CA. This company does what's called 'experiental marketing' for a wide range of major companies including Ford Motor Company. Representatives from RMD are traveling throughout the country right now, talking to customers, dealerships and both mechanical and collision shops to tell them about the F-150 and its emerging role in the industry.
"This is an exciting time for the F-150 and Ford in general," Barrera explained. "I've been traveling to Ford dealerships all over the west coast to show people the amazing innovations on this new vehicle. We're introducing the public to this truck and hitting all of the major cities. People have so many questions about it and it's definitely an exciting time for the manufacturer. The F-150 is already selling off the shelves and Ford is making them in Dearborn, MI as fast as they can."
Tiffany Silva, the EB-CAA chapter's president and owner of Accurate Auto Body in Richmond, CA, is one of the few body shops that are both certified and fully capable to work on aluminum Ford F-150s right now in the Bay Area. She moderated the discussion and offered her perspective. "As an organization, we want to share as much information as we can with our members, because aluminum is obviously here to stay," Silva explained. "We want to be able to repair these trucks correctly and be able to get the right parts for it. And of course, we need to make money too. By pooling our skills and sharing information, we can be stronger and better to do the job."
When Silva asked if any other shops in attendance were currently certified and geared to work on F-150s, only one other shop said that they were just a month or two away from being ready to roll. When other shops in the room were asked about aluminum and its future for their company, the responses were mixed.
"I want to see one F-150 in a shop before I start taking this seriously," one technician who asked not to be named said. Another body shop owner (also unnamed) said I'm not going to invest all that money until I get an idea of how many F-150s will be sold in our region. A lot of us are testing the waters and meetings like this one really help."Almost all of the people we talked to did say that one way or another, aluminum will be a part of their future ”but not maybe right now.
In other chapter news, Silva announced that last year the EB-CAA raised approximately $6,000 during its raffles held at each meeting, with the money going to three local ROPs and two Bay Area tech schools. The chapter's next meeting will feature motivational speaker D.B. Outlaw on April 22 at PPG's Training Center in Concord, CA.