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About 8,000 aluminum-bodied F-150s are on their way to dealer lots, but it still may be too early to tell if the lightweight material will mean higher insurance costs for buyers of Ford Motor Co.’s latest pickup.

When news broke that the 2015 truck would have an aluminum body, there was speculation that the cost of collision insurance would go up because repairs would be more costly and require special body tools. But the Dearborn automaker has subsidized repair training and new tools for dealers with body shops to help ensure competitive rates.

“It’s too soon to tell whether the new F-150 is going to have higher insurance losses than the previous generation model,” Russ Rader, spokesman for the Highway Loss Data Institute affiliate of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, said in an interview. “We’ll need to have enough of them on the road getting into enough crashes to gather data on repair costs.”

Some early indications are that costs could be marginally higher.

Online insurance quotes from two Metro Detroit agencies priced the 2015 F-150 XLT anywhere from $27-$54 higher than a comparable 2014 model over a 6-month period. Insurance information was given for both a 58-year-old male from Grosse Pointe Woods and a 37-year-old female living in Royal Oak. Insurance rates vary greatly, and depend on a number of factors including age, location, driving history and past driving record.

Rader’s office recently conducted studies comparing aluminum-bodied luxury vehicles like the Audi A8 against their steel-bodied counterparts like a BMW 7 Series and found costs for aluminum vehicles were anywhere from 9 to 20 percent greater.

But that doesn’t necessarily mean F-150 insurance costs will rise.

“Since the F-150 is a mass-market, high-selling vehicle, it’s collision claim experience could be different,” Rader said. “As more repair shops become equipped and receive training to handle aluminum, the increased volume could drive costs down. In addition, Ford has stated that they have incorporated modular designs to facility replacement to damaged parts which may save on labor costs.”

Ford maintains insurance costs for the new truck will remain competitive.

“Insurance rates represent only about 11 percent of the average cost of ownership for F-150 customers, while fuel and depreciation costs represent about 68 percent of ownership costs,” Ford said in a statement. “With improved gas mileage and a higher residual value expected from the use of advanced powertrains and high-strength materials, we expect cost of ownership for the all-new F-150 will remain similar to or less than today’s levels. Reduced repair times for certain major collision repairs are expected to help keep insurance rates competitive as well.”

The new truck weighs about 700 pounds less than prior models, and can get up to 26 mpg on the highway — tops among all gas-powered full-size pickups.

Because the F-150 is such a high-volume seller — F-Series has been America’s best-selling vehicle for 33 straight years — Ford offered dealers with service shops a voluntary Collision Repair Program that trains workers how to repair the new vehicle. Ford said Tuesday more than 1,500 dealers have already participated in the program, which includes tooling upgrades that will cost between $30,000 and $50,000. Ford will chip in up to $10,000 in rebates to purchase equipment for aluminum repairs to any interested dealer with a service shop.

“It is important to note that less than 50% of our dealers have body shops, although we expected that only 20-30 percent of our dealers needed equipment and training due to the larger volume of collision work those dealers do,” spokeswoman Elizabeth Weigandt said in an email. “The majority of collision work (80 percent) is done by independent shops.”

Avis Ford in Southfield is one of the 1,500 dealerships that went through the repair training.

Ingrid Henderson, a sales associate at Avis, said the truck was so new that replacement part prices weren’t even logged in their system.

She said the dealership has sold a couple trucks already, and one sits in their showroom.

“The F-150 has always been a huge demand,” she said. “So far for the ’15, it’s the same demand or greater than before. We’ve never have a problem selling them.”

mmartinez@detroitnews.com

(313) 222-2401

Twitter.com/MikeMartinez_DN

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