NEW YORK Stainless steel consumption in the appliance sector is beating expectations and growing in 2013, while the trend toward lightweighting in automotive production also should boost stainless consumption, according to Steven Wasil, Outokumpu Stainless USA LLCs director of national sales.
An expected drop in stainless steel usage in the appliance sector in 2013 "has not manifested itself," Wasil told AMM in an interview. "What has actually happened is the opposite: weve seen continued use of stainless, not only in exposed panel applications such as fridge doors but ... a huge increase in internal components using stainless," he said.
"Its most notable in the fabric-care segment," Wasil said. "The market used to be dominated by top-loaded washing machines, and weve seen a big migration to front-loaders. So all of the internal baskets have been converted to stainless, because you have the strength of stainless and the corrosion resistance. On the dishwasher side, weve seen a migration away from plastic in (low-cost appliances) towards stainless steel. At the high end theyve always been made from stainless, but now the majority of tubs have converted to stainless, and only very few dishwashers at the low end are still made from plastic."
Wasil said that overall appliance sales are likely to improve in 2013 after having dropped in 2011 and 2012, which he attributed to an acceleration of sales in 2010 due to the federal governments "Cash for Crispers" appliance purchase stimulus program (amm.com, Oct. 29, 2009). "For 2013, the industry was giving guidance of 3-percent growth," he said. "We now expect it will be much stronger."
Wasil said that the automotive sector has performed even better than the appliance sector as far as stainless steel consumption is concerned, citing the growth in sales of the Ford F-150 as indicative of the sectors resurgence (amm.com, May 2). "America has gone back to work and is using more pickups. And pickups use more stainless than Priuses," he said.
The trend toward lightweightingeven in heavier vehicles such as the F-150 (amm.com, July 27)represents an opportunity for the stainless sector to gain a greater market share in automotive, he said. "We actually have a huge opportunity on the stainless side to facilitate that lighter weight. I think we will see a greater proportion of stainless in future vehicles, in structural applications as well as cosmetic. Our approach as we ramp up (our plant in Calvert, Ala.) will see automotive be an increasing part of our portfolio."
Wasil said that the Calvert-based company would spend most of 2013 seeking to gain crucial certifications from automotive manufacturers for its plant. "The approvals process for the automotive industry is complicated and lengthy," he said. "Were aiming to have it for the end of 2013, but it may spill over into 2014. Weve got our ISO (International Organization for Standardization) certification. Now were just working on the individual requirements of manufacturers."