DEARBORN, Mich. The U.S. automotive supply chain may find itself short of ultra-high-strength steel (UHSS) production capacity in coming years even as a handful of specialty continuous annealing lines look poised to come online in the mid-term, according to Ronald Radzilowski, manager of metallurgical technology at Severstal North America Inc.
"Auto producers are developing capabilities to consume these third-generation advanced high-strength steels," Radzilowski told attendees at AMMs 5th Automotive Metals Conference in Dearborn. "The real issue is: Will the United States have the capability to make these grades in the next three to five years?"
A few domestic steelmakers are taking steps to install the necessary capacity, including Dearborn-based Severstal itself, which has been looking at the possibility of installing a new continuous annealing line at its Dearborn operations (AMM, April 13). "Severstal is actively trying to establish that precedent in the United States," Radzilowski said.
Pittsburgh-based U.S. Steel Corp. and Japans Kobe Steel Ltd. also are constructing a new continuous annealing line to process 500,000 tons of steel per year at their Pro-Tec Coating Co. joint venture in Leipsic, Ohio. The state-of-the-art line is expected to reach full production by the end of next year.
But with a growing number of automakers said to be eyeing the third-generation steels for future models, more UHSS capacity may still be required, Radzilowski said. "Our understanding just based on this side of the world is that there will be shortage of supply if advanced high-strength steels are incorporated into automobiles. The technology is therewe just dont have the supply."
Outside of the United States, steelmakers in China and elsewhere in Asia also are trying to ramp up their UHSS capacity, but the U.S. automotive market cant rely solely on foreign material, Radzilowski said. "The key thing is (that) if were going to service the automotive industry in this country, we shouldnt have to rely on imports. We should develop that capability and the capacity to make quality material to anticipate automotive applications. Certainly were moving in that direction, hopefully more rapidly than we have in the past couple of years."