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US - Aluminium threatens to overtakes steel in auto production

The Aluminium Association reported that by 2012 the use of aluminium in automobiles could reach record highs. The organization cited a Ducker Worldwide survey that shows North American automakers will increase their use of aluminium 53% to 500 pounds by 2025.

Fuel economy standards in the United States are forcing carmakers to seek lighter weight materials for production. Aluminium is seen as one of the steel industry's most formidable challengers in the race to produce fuel efficient vehicles.

Steelmakers have led the way to vehicle mass reduction with advanced high strength steels. These steel grades feature the strength characteristics of traditional steel but are easier to form and lighter than other older versions. But the Aluminium Association, which represents US and foreign based aluminium producers, said that aluminium can replace more than twice as much weight as steel.

Alcoa Inc marketing director Mr Randall Scheps touted the Ducker findings as a sign that aluminium’s time has come as a major player in new vehicle designs.

Mr Jay Baron president and CEO of Center for Automotive Research in Ann Arbor Mich said that aluminium certainly has weight advantages over steel but the material's cost and lack of familiarity within the auto industry are still challenges for the industry. In many instances, automakers' plants are more equipped to handle steel than aluminium.

Mr Baron said that "We like steel in the auto industry because we've been using it forever, we know how to form it and it's magnetic. The magnetic qualities of steel allow the auto plants to use magnets for material handling purposes. Automakers also are more familiar with how to weld steel than aluminium.”

He said that aluminium also poses corrosion issues if an aluminium part touches a steel component in the vehicle. Perhaps the greatest advantage steel has over aluminium is cost. Aluminium can be two to three times more costly than steel. That cost can be offset though by cost savings from downsized components, the Aluminium Association contends.

Sourced from industryweek.com

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