Ford’s aluminum F-150 faces new challenges

01/21/2014 10:16 PM

01/21/2014 10:16 PM

F-150 challenge

After laboring five years to develop its aluminum F-150, Ford now confronts a new challenge: preventing higher insurance rates and a dearth of mechanics equipped to repair the F-150 body from deterring buyers. Less than 10 percent of the more than 30,000 independent repair shops are certified and meet training and equipment requirements to work with most aluminum auto body parts, estimates Darrell Amberson, chairman of the Automotive Service Association. While some dealerships do in-house body work, independent businesses handle the vast majority of collision repair, he said. Ford, which is building the best-selling truck at its Claycomo assembly plant, is betting that buyers will accept what it estimates will be a 10 percent jump in costs to insure the pickup in return for improved fuel economy, towing and payload.

Bitcoin on the Strip

Las Vegas is getting one more novelty. Starting this week, patrons will be able to use the online currency Bitcoin to pay for rooms, food and drinks at two downtown casinos. The D casino and the city’s oldest casino, the Golden Gate, will accept bitcoins at hotel front desks beginning Wednesday. The cybercurrency will also be accepted at the D’s gift shop and two restaurants. Dollars will remain the only currency accepted on the gambling floor. Unlike government-issued money, the value of Bitcoin fluctuates rapidly. The two casinos will use a Bitcoin broker that immediately exchanges the digital coins into dollars.

Strong start

Apple’s latest iPads sold well in the first few months after they were launched, suggesting the technology company may report higher average selling prices from this part of its business when its quarterly results are released next week, according to a survey by Consumer Intelligence Research Partners. The new iPad Air and iPad Mini accounted for 57 percent of iPad sales during the final quarter last year.

Billion-dollar bracket

Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway is backing a $1 billion prize offered by Quicken Loans if a contestant predicts the winner of each game in the NCAA men’s basketball tournament. The prize will be paid in 40 annual installments of $25 million and split among multiple winners if there is more than one perfect entrant, the Detroit-based lender said. The winner also has the option of a single payment of $500 million. Berkshire has specialized in unusual insurance risks for decades, protecting clients against big losses in return for premium payments.

Classic car prices

Two 1958 Ferrari convertibles captured the top prices at a week of classic car auctions in Arizona that raised $248.6 million, an 11 percent advance on the equivalent events last year, according to Hagerty, a classic car price database. Classic cars were a lucrative alternative investment in 2013. Prices in the dealer and auction markets for exceptional historic autos rose 47 percent, according to a report from London-based research company Historic Automobile Group International.

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