Will Car Lovers Love Aluminum?
The North American International Auto Show last month drew more than 800,000 car lovers to Detroit to see the latest the auto industry has to offer. Beneath the shiny finishes on the amazing array of vehicles is a lot more aluminum.
Drawing much attention was Ford’s aluminum-body F-150 pickup truck, which won the coveted North American Truck/Utility of the Year Award. Ford took a big gamble when it opted to be the first to mass produce a full-size truck with lighter-weight aluminum body panels, replacing the traditional steel exterior. The truck has only been on sale for a short time, so it remains to be seen whether truck loyalists will consider the new F-150 a lightweight in terms of performance and appeal rather than just fuel consumption.
Also at the show, Ford underscored its commitment to aluminum by revealing its high-performance, off-road pickup, the F-150 Raptor. The 2017 Raptor model reportedly sheds 500 pounds thanks to various aluminum parts including the engine block and body panels, as well as a composite hood and front fenders. Audi rolled out its new aluminum-bodied high-performance vehicle, the Audi Q7. Jaguar announced plans to add the aluminum-intensive F-Pace SUV to its lineup. And Infinity unveiled its new Q60 sedan concept car, which takes aluminum construction to a new level for the company.
Tom Boney, vice president and general manager of Novelis North America and chairman of the Aluminum Association’s Aluminum in Transportation Group, claims fresh new ideas in automotive design have made aluminum the auto industry's material of choice. He pointed to the results of last year’s study by Ducker Worldwide, (commissioned by the Aluminum Association) which forecasts major gains for automotive aluminum in the next decade.
By 2025, more than 75 percent of all new pickup trucks produced in North America will be aluminum-bodied, according to Ducker’s survey of all the major automakers. The number of vehicles with complete aluminum body structures will reach 18 percent of North American production from less than 1 percent today. Pickup trucks, sport-utility vehicles and both mid-sized and full-size sedans will be aluminum-content leaders.
Every leading automaker will have numerous aluminum body and closure programs by 2025. As the material mix continues to change, use of aluminum sheet for vehicle bodies will increase to 4 billion pounds by 2025, from 200 million pounds in 2012, Ducker calculates.
Additional findings from the study:
• For 2015, pickup trucks will contain the most aluminum at 548.9 pounds per vehicle, followed closely by E segment sedans at 546.9 pounds, SUVs at 410.3 pounds and minivans at 396.5 pounds
• The average aluminum content in 2015 will be up 44 pounds per vehicle or 13 percent over 2012.
• Total North American light vehicle aluminum consumption will increase 28 percent in 2015 over 2012.
• By 2025, 26.6 percent of all the body and closure parts for light vehicles in North America will be made of aluminum.
• Total North American aluminum content in 2025 will be 10 billion pounds.
• Globally, light vehicle aluminum content will approach 35 billion pounds by 2025 making light vehicles the most important global market for aluminum.
Automakers are waiting anxiously to see how much today’s dramatically lower gasoline prices will affect sales of their more fuel-efficient vehicles. Most are hedging their bets by offering new high-performance models, as well.