Over the past five years, European car manufacturers carried the flag as users of aluminum. However, this year marks a tipping point as American companies have now overtaken their European counterparts when it comes to aluminum usage. This is most likely due to a combination of factors — market demands for innovation, overall vehicle frame size, and government standards for MPG. From Bloomberg:
Ford Motor Co. is among manufacturers rolling out new cars that substitute aluminum for heavier steel. Use of the lightweight metal in vehicles is rising about 5 percent a year, according to Barclays Plc. Making car bodies consumes about 350,000 metric tons of aluminum sheet a year, of which Atlanta-based Novelis produces 250,000 tons, according to Erwin Mayr, president of Novelis Europe.
U.S. vehicles are incorporating more aluminum because of Corporate Average Fuel Economy standards that limit fuel usage and consumer demand for cars that are more economic and cause less pollution, Mayr said in an interview. European manufacturers including Volkswagen AG’s Audi unit and Daimler AG were leaders in the past five years, he said.
“Now the trend is being completely taken over by the big carmakers in North America,” Mayr said in Geneva on Sept. 18. “Americans tend to drive big cars, so they need to make them lighter. You need a lot of aluminum.”
Ford’s F-150 truck, containing more than 1,000 pounds of the metal, may raise the average content in vehicles to 650 pounds, according to Bloomberg Industries estimates. Aluminum usage per car will average 160 kilograms (352 pounds) by 2020, against 140 kilograms last year, according to slides in a presentation last week by Werner Stelzer, a former executive at Canadian producer Alcan who is an auto and aluminum consultant.
In addition to the F-150, Chevrolet’s new Corvette Stingray will feature an aluminum frame. It’s not just for hybrid’s and MPG-conscious commuter cars; now we’re seeing aluminum used as the body for American standards across the spectrum.