NEW YORK Automotive aluminum sheet suppliers are gearing up for an increase in demand as the trend toward vehicle lightweighting gathers steam, with Ford Motor Co. reportedly planning to build future versions of its F-150 pickup with a predominantly aluminum body.
According to the Wall Street Journal, future versions of the F-150 truck will be made with an aluminum body to reduce the overall weight of the vehicle by 700 pounds, though Ford declined to confirm the plan when contacted by AMM.
"Were constantly looking at ways to improve trucks and cars in ways that improve fuel efficiency, but it would be premature to discuss a solution we might use for a future product," a Ford spokesman told AMM. "Were already a leader in aluminum use in full-size pickups. The hood of the F-150 has been manufactured from aluminum since 2004."
Aluminum suppliers have made no secret of their intention to capture a greater share of the auto market, with a report last year from Ducker Worldwide LLC predicting that the average aluminum content in vehicles will increase by nearly 70 percent by 2025 (amm.com, Nov. 22).
One spokesman for an aluminum supplier to Ford and other auto manufacturers added that his company is increasing auto sheet capacity to better position itself for increased demand.
"The big growth in automotive aluminum will be in sheet as they turn to aluminum for structures and body panels," he said. "For us today, it represents only 7 percent of our business, but its the most rapidly growing sector."
Randall Schepps, Alcoa Inc.s director of automotive marketing, recently described car bodies as "the next frontier" for automotive aluminum suppliers at AMMs 2nd Annual Aluminum Summit in New York last month (amm.com, June 14).
Alcoa announced a $300-million expansion at its Davenport, Iowa, facility aimed at enhancing the sites aluminum sheet production in March (amm.com, March 5), while Novelis Inc. has pointed to increasing demand for automotive sheet with a $200-million upgrade of its Oswego, N.Y., facility. A Novelis spokesman said the upgrade would boost the sites sheet production capacity from 40,000 tonnes per year to 240,000 tonnes.