Constellium NV wants to add automotive aluminum capacity in the
United States as it foresees a "step change" in demand
following what it predicts will be the Ford F-150the top
selling pickup truck in the countrybecoming a primarily
Ford Motor Co. uses
aluminum in the hood, suspension system and engine components
of the F-150, a spokesman for the Dearborn, Mich., automaker
told AMM Nov. 14, brushing off speculation about the
pickup truck converting to an aluminum vehicle. "We are already
the leader in aluminum use in full-size pickups," he said. "And
its premature to discuss anything that we might use on a
He also declined to
reveal who supplies aluminum to the F-150, noting that
Fords policy is not to discuss sourcing.
aluminum company has "zero" capacity to meet expected big
increases in demand for aluminum in the body-in-white of U.S.
cars and trucks, Constellium chief executive officer Pierre
Vareille said during a conference call with analysts following
the release of its third-quarter earnings results Nov. 14. But
the company is "looking very actively at building capacity in
the U.S. for this (automotive) market," he said. "There are two
players right now in this market, and we think that there is a
need for a third player."
didnt reveal who those two other players might be. The
company hopes to announce a decision about its plans for the
U.S. automotive sector "in the months to come," Vareille
Given the need to
source equipment and gain qualifications from original
equipment manufacturers (OEMs), any U.S. automotive expansion
wouldnt have a significant impact on Constelliums
results until 2016, he said.
doesnt have the hot metal capacity to support a big
increase in U.S. auto body sheet production, Vareille said.
"But we have never said that we would go to this market alone.
So a model where we could use hot-line capacity from a partner
is a model that could be one we would go for," he said.
wouldnt, at least initially, plan to use its facility in
Ravenswood, W.Va., to make automotive products, Vareille said.
Ravenswood isnt fully booked, but expects to boost
aerospace shipments significantly in the coming months and
year, he said. "So for the time being, Ravenswood probably
would not be part of the first phase of expansion in
body-in-white in the U.S."
The European auto
market has seen steady gains in aluminum content for decades as
the light metal has moved from smaller-volume luxury vehicles
to more mass produced ones, Constellium executives said. But in
the United States, the change could happen quickly because of
stricter emissions standards, they added.
"In the U.S.,
its very different. ... There was virtually no aluminum
in the body-in-white until very recently," Vareille said. "It
is a steep change from nothing to a very high volume."
The F-150 alone
converting to aluminum could boost demand by several hundred
thousand tonnes, Constellium executives said.
"This decision by Ford
is a tipping point. There will be more OEMs continuing to
switch from steel to aluminum just because they compete with
Ford," Vareille said. "If they dont, their cars will have
more emissions and they will be obliged to decrease the size of
their engines, so they will lose some traction with their
On the aerospace
front, Constellium executives said they werent seeing the
same inventory overhang experienced by other aluminum companies
(amm.com, Oct. 9, Oct. 29 and Nov. 6). They chalked
the move up to 90 percent of the companys aerospace
business being long-term contracts, generally for five years,
thus shielding it from spot volume and price volatility.
The executives also
pointed to Constellium gaining business at the expense of
others. "Our competitors see the overhang. But part of the
overhang is probably the fact that were taking market
share, although of course its difficult for them to
assess that," Vareille said.