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Accuride prepares for wheel supply tightness

Keywords: Tags  Accuride, Alcoa, Massena West, casthouse fire, aluminum wheels, steel wheels, Suzy Waite

NEW YORK — Aluminum and steel wheel manufacturer Accuride Corp. is preparing for potential supply constraints in the wake of Alcoa Inc. halting billet casting at its Massena West facility.

A March 29 fire at the Massena West casthouse forced Pittsburgh-based Alcoa to halt production of billet, some of which was forged-quality metal used internally by Alcoa’s wheel division, Alcoa Wheel & Transportation Products, in Cleveland, sources told AMM.

"We are working with our customers to address potential near- and mid-term supply constraints for aluminum wheels," an Accuride spokesman told AMM. "Our company’s ability to respond to a possible increase in demand will depend on the level and timing of the increase. We would make small tactical changes to our current business plan in the areas of capital investments and manpower planning in order to meet an increase in demand."

Accuride purchases 100 percent of its billet externally and does not rely on Alcoa for billet, the spokesman added.

Alcoa Wheel and Evansille, Ind.-based Accuride are the two main players in North American forged wheel markets, and sources said that taking Alcoa out of the equation will undoubtedly have an impact on the commercial vehicle sector.

Accuride is aiming to double aluminum wheel production capacity this year following a $20-million investment to improve the company’s aluminum wheel production facilities, including installing new machining lines and equipment, and transferring equipment between its three aluminum wheel plants in Camden, S.C., Erie, Pa, and Monterrey, Mexico, according to the spokesman.

"We believe this will bring sufficient aluminum capacity online at Accuride to meet the peak industry cycle demand expected in 2013-14," the spokesman said. He declined to offer capacity numbers.

Alcoa is still evaluating the damage at Massena West in upstate New York, and no timeline has been set for when billet production will resume. The company declined to comment Friday.

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