Can HSS up volume in a downsized, distressed market?

Aug 01, 2009 | 05:43 AM |

A struggling North American steel industry is looking for customers to buy its products in almost any shape or form. High-strength steels (HSS) are recognized as competitive with aluminum and plastics, but with the automotive industry running on four flat tires, steelmakers are finding it more and more difficult to move even an innovative, environmentally friendly product to customers who, while they might want the steel, really have no need for it.

"There was a lot of talk last year about a drastic drop in the amount of mild steels being used in cars and light trucks, but you haven't heard much of that lately," Charles Bradford, a steel industry analyst at Affiliated Research Group LLC, said. "That (drop in mild steel usage) was to be offset by more use of high-strength steel. But there are a lot of problems now with (automakers). No one is really focused on the automotive market except for trying to find ways to not get stuck with debt."

Analysts agree that opportunities exist for steel in high-strength applications in automotive markets. John Tumazos of Very Independent Research, Holmdel, N.J., said that about 85 percent of aluminum in a car is in castings, wheels, engine blocks and other components. In some upscale models, there also is aluminum in hoods, trunk lids and deck lids.....

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