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Auto Industry Making Aluminum Popular

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June 17, 2014


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Auto Industry Making Aluminum Popular

Ford aluminum

The auto industry is all buzzing about Ford‘s experiment with the upcoming aluminum F-150. Shaving 700 lbs off of the best selling vehicle in America by substituting an aluminum body for steel will be a game changer if they can pull it off. Rivals are watching them closely, and there is a flurry of activity in the aluminum industry, as it prepares for soaring demand.

It’s not just all about the F-150, however. There is a growing list of vehicles that already have aluminum bodies, or at least body panels such as roofs, doors and trunks. Range Rover already has an aluminum bodied model in production, on track to build 100,000 of them this year and the company is looking at expanding capacity to build more. The company’s aluminum-bodied Jaguar XE will begin production next year. Ford says that they will make at least 1 million vehicles of aluminum in 2017. The upcoming Tesla Model X crossover will be made of aluminum, followed by the company’s aluminum-bodied entry level small sedan in 2016. The 2014 Corvette uses an aluminum frame. The 2015 Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon mid-sized pickup trucks will have aluminum hoods and GM is considering aluminum bodies for next-gen Silverados and Sierras. It’s been hinted that the next generation of the Jeep Wrangler SUV might get an aluminum body, a first for Fiat Chrysler.

Converting to aluminum can be tricky for auto manufacturers. It’s more expensive than steel, requires a significantly more complicated assembly process, and can cost much more to repair. Extensive training is required at all levels. It’s light weight and rust resistance makes it attractive, however. Attractive enough to withstand these upfront expenses.

Gearing up, aluminum producer Alcoa Inc is expanding their Tennessee plant to handle increased production of automotive-grade sheet aluminum. It is used to make stamped body parts like hoods and doors. The company has secured long-term contracts for the aluminum that will be produced there once the expansion is completed next year. It’s not just in the U.S., aluminum is taking off around the world. Japan’s Kobe Steel is working on a joint venture with Toyota, and Novelis Inc is building a line at it’s plant in Germany too.

Alcoa says they expect that automotive demand for aluminum will double by 2015. Novelis is expecting their sales to the auto industry to increase by 15 percent per year for the remainder of this decade. The auto industry is definitely leaving it’s mark on aluminum.

By Linda

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