Aluminum continues to win favor among
automakers, having surpassed iron as the second-most-used
material in the manufacture of automobiles.
Honda Motor Co. Ltd., Tokyo, long ago saw the
wisdom of using aluminum in its vehicles and continues that
philosophy today. "Honda has a history going back decades of
using aluminum in our cars, especially in our engines, " a
spokesman for the Japanese automaker said. "All of our engines
are aluminum now, including both blocks and heads."
Honda's most aluminum-intensive vehicle is
the Acura RL sports sedan, the spokesman said. The vehicle
qualifies as a high-content vehicle, with more than 500 pounds
of the light metal on board, including an aluminum hood, front
fender, trunk lid and trunk lid frame. The company's S2000
sports convertible also features an aluminum hood.
Joining the Acura on the list of
high-aluminum-content vehicles from Japanese automakers are
four models from Toyota Motor Corp. and three from Nissan Motor
Co. Ltd. All of the Japanese automakers have extensive
manufacturing operations in the United States.
The Honda spokesman said his company is now
beginning to incorporate exhaust manifolds into its engine
block designs. This will increase the aluminum content in
vehicles as the manifold will be made from aluminum, as well as
reduce the number of components-one example of the synergistic
solutions presented by aluminum for automakers.
Ford Motor Co., Dearborn, Mich., also sees
growth for aluminum in the auto sector, with the lightweight
metal winning substitution battles with steel in some cases, a
company spokeswoman said. However, aluminum also must compete
against other materials, including magnesium and
Aluminum growth comes mainly in castings for
larger engines, she said, but eventually will extend to smaller
engines as well, driven by the need for mass reduction to
achieve better fuel economy and performance. Closures like
hoods and roofs also are moving to aluminum.
No lightweight when it comes to
lightweighting, General Motors Corp., Detroit, has five
vehicles on the list of high-aluminum-content vehicles. In
addition to Chevrolet's flagship Corvette speedster, four
Cadillac models-the CTS, STS, DTS and XLR-all tip the scales
with more than 500 pounds of aluminum.
High-end autos like the new Jaguar XK and
Audi A8 have bodies made entirely of aluminum. Audi is well
known for its Teutonic, aluminum-skinned autos. Audi's new R8,
features aluminum sheet from Novelis Inc., Atlanta.