Survey Indicates Auto Aluminum Usage at All-Time High, Expected to Accelerate - BodyShop Business
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Survey Indicates Auto Aluminum Usage at All-Time High, Expected to Accelerate

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Automakers are accelerating their shift to aluminum away from other materials for new car and light truck construction, as they seek to safely and cost-effectively lower the weight of vehicles, according to a new survey of North American automakers conducted by Ducker Worldwide and reported on by the Aluminum Association. The survey indicated that aluminum is quickly gaining market share in hoods, trunks, doors and bumpers while already dominating powertrain and wheel applications.

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The survey of automakers indicates that since lighter vehicles get better fuel economy with fewer emissions, aluminum is already the leading material in the engine and wheel markets and is fast-gaining market share in hoods, trunks and doors. The survey estimates that automakers will increase their use of aluminum from 327 lbs. in 2009 to 550 lbs. in 2025.

The survey also shows that continued growth in automakers’ overall use of aluminum will reach an all-time high of 343 lbs. per vehicle in 2012 – up 5 percent from 327 lbs. in 2009.

Longer term, the report predicts aluminum is expected to double its share of the average automotive materials mix to 16 percent by 2025, with future cars and light trucks reaching a predicted average of 550 lbs. of automotive aluminum per vehicle. As the Obama Administration considers stricter fuel economy regulations, automakers are expected to lower the overall weight of vehicles by approximately 400 lbs. per vehicle, and as aluminum use increases, the mix percent is expected to double, according to the association.

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"We’re fast-entering a transition stage to more holistic vehicle design approaches premised on greater use of lighter, stronger and more crash-absorbent aluminum alloys replacing less efficient iron and steel," said Randall Scheps, chairman of the Aluminum Association’s Aluminum Transportation Group and marketing director at Alcoa, Inc. "Vehicles with their size maintained, but downweighted with aluminum, are inherently more efficient than heavier ones."

Aluminum is already the leading material in powertrain and wheel applications, and the survey indicates it’s quickly gaining market share in hoods, trunks, doors and bumpers. Body, bumper and closure content grew by 58 percent from 2009 to 2012, with 30 percent of all hoods on 2012 vehicles being aluminum, saving a total of 100 million lbs. of vehicle weight across the entire fleet. Twenty percent of all bumpers in 2012 will be aluminum.

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According to the report, future growth in auto aluminum usage will be primarily driven by these and other applications being converted from steel. For example, the trend line for aluminum hood penetration predicts a minimum share for aluminum of 41 percent by 2017 and 53 percent by 2025.

The survey also looked at average aluminum content by North American automakers, declaring General Motors the content leader at 366 lbs. per vehicle. Honda leads aluminum content as a percent of curb weight at 10.7 percent in 2012.

The latest model vehicles boasting above average aluminum content (more than 9 percent of vehicle curb weight) include the Chevrolet Malibu, Cadillac CTS, Ford Explorer, Ford Focus, Ford Escape, Lincoln MKZ, Chrysler C sedan, Honda Civic/CR-V, Honda Accord, Nissan Altima, Toyota Avalon and Fiat 500.

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"These real-world examples, complemented by a significant body of research, confirms that aluminum can take out significantly more weight safely than even newer steels, while remaining cost competitive and having a lower overall carbon footprint than any other competing material, doing it safely and, in many instances, helping to lower costs," Scheps says.

On a segment basis, the survey points to future growth areas in mid-size and large sedans as well as full-size, full-frame vehicles (i.e. light-duty pickup trucks), mainly due to the comfort, safety and functionality requirements expected from the customer.


More information:

A webinar to review the detailed results of this survey, commissioned by the Aluminum Association, Inc., will be hosted on Friday, Sept. 23, from noon to 1 p.m. Eastern. To register for the webinar or for more information on the survey, visit www.aluminumintransportation.org.

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