Steel fine tunes its battle plan to build marketshare in automotive

Oct 01, 2009 | 10:11 AM |

In the Cecil B. DeMille epic movie The Ten Commandments, pharaoh Yul Brynner, weary of the plagues put upon Egypt, counters by telling the Jewish slaves that as punishment they must make their same tally of bricks without straw—in effect, ordering them to do more with less.

With new fuel economy standards and increasing crashworthiness requirements for new vehicles, the North American steel industry is finding itself in a similar situation. Not many in the industry are building steel pyramids, but the industry is facing the conundrum of trying to make vehicles lighter and more crashworthy while at the same time maintaining the highest possible percentage of steel they can in each vehicle.

In today's auto/steel production world, the first commandment might read "Build the same number of vehicles, if not more, but use more steel and make the cars lighter and more fuel efficient." An impossible task? No more so than making bricks without straw, at least for members of the Auto/Steel Partnership.

The partnership is a combination of steelmakers and automakers working together to use the latest generation of steels in vehicle construction. Among the partnership's goals is finding ways for steelmakers and their customers—automakers and parts fabricators in particular—to work together in vehicle design and construction so that new-generation vehicles can meet stricter government regulations related to fuel economy and crashworthiness.

"We want to see more cars built and, naturally, we want to see them built with steel," said Ron Krupitzer, vice president of automotive applications for the Steel Market Development Committee of the American Iron and Steel Institute, Washington. "It truly is a challenge we are facing and it's being made tougher because of things like Cafe (corporate average fuel economy) standards and the re-emphasis on mass reduction. But we are making a lot of progress and we are taking the next step forward."....

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