Oct. 15, 2014

WSD: Steel Will Survive the Auto Sheet War
 
With one aluminum producer after another announcing major investments in added sheet capacity in anticipation of surging demand from the auto industry, the results of a recent steel industry report leave some skeptical. The widely respected analysts at World Steel Dynamics believe aluminum’s gains in the automotive war will be short-lived.

In its recent report, AutoBody Warfare: Aluminum Attack, the New Jersey-based market research firm concludes that steel can provide the weight savings required to meet federally mandated fuel economy targets.

“This timely analysis demonstrates the value of advanced high-strength steel designs in meeting the needs of automakers, while exposing the cost penalties of switching to aluminum,” says Lawrence W. Kavanagh, president of the Steel Market Development Institute, a business unit of the American Iron and Steel Institute. “The report’s conclusions, and forecast for steel, are good news for customers and consumers as they demonstrate that automakers can and will continue to depend on the performance of steel and the safety, fuel efficiency and sustainability it provides."

Key claims of the study include:

• Advanced high-strength steels will offer more than sufficient lightweighting opportunities to automotive companies in the next decade. From 2021-2025, automotive designers will be implementing an array of higher-strength steels.

• Once engineers decide to redesign steel-intensive vehicles from the ground up, they will implement sizable and relatively low-cost weight savings with advanced high-strength steels, enabling continued supply of steel closures.

• Advanced high-strength steels, even if priced substantially higher than other auto sheet, are quite attractive given their weight savings relative to aluminum. Use of AHSS will rise to 23.7 million tons by 2025, a 330 percent gain, displacing mild steel and alternative materials.

• Automakers will not widely adopt aluminum or other alternative materials during their next round of design, WSD predicts, forecasting that the growth of aluminum sheet in cars, SUVs and light trucks will peak about 2018.

Of course, aluminum makers are placing a bet to the contrary. And, as they would be quick to point out, the report is not the work of World Aluminum Dynamics.

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