Like racers fighting
for track position or commuters trying to edge their way ahead
on a crowded highway, metal producers continue to work to keep
themselves poised to win a bigger share of the auto market, the
shining star in North Americas manufacturing sector.
Steel and aluminum
producers remain the biggest fighters in the ongoing battle to
provide lighter and more-fuel-efficient materials to automakers
enjoying their strongest sales since the Great Recession. U.S.
sales of 16 million vehicles per year are sustainable possibly
to 2020, according to IHS Automotive Consulting managing
director Michael Robinet, with a world total of around 106
million light vehicles annually by the end of the decade,
including 18 million in the North American Free Trade Agreement
region. Welcome to Utopia, better known as
automotive, Robinet told attendees at the Metals Service
Center Institutes Economic Summit in the Utopia
conference room at the Renaissance Convention Center in
automakers today are concerned with capacity constraints,
lightweighting and how fast they can create a sophisticated
supply chain and infrastructure to competitively build vehicles
in Mexico, which lacks automotive-quality steel
Most, if not all,
assembly plants in the United States are running two shifts,
with many running three shifts. We are running at the
edge of full capacity at assembly and related operations
and at supplier plants, Robinet said. Its
brick-and-mortar time in North America.
localization-of-supply trend among the Big Three automakers and
foreign transplants will continue for the next 10 years,
Robinet predicted, driven by logistics costs and volatile
currency exchange rates. Automakers are tired of taping
dollar bills to every part they import, he said.
Since the recession
ended, automotive suppliers are more savvy and protect their
margins better than before, but they have a lot on their
plates. There are 18 new-model launches this year and 32
scheduled for next year, Robinet said. Think of how
strained the supply base is already.
As for lightweighting,
Robinet advised the metals industry to get used to
smaller vehicles. Vehicles such as Ford Motor Co.s
Fusion and Edge will make up 80 percent of the market in the
near future, he said. V-8s will be down to 10
percent of all engine production as automakers
devote all their energy to 4- and 6-cylinder engines, and
more of that on 4-cylinder powerplants. They will eke out as
much fuel economy as possible.
innovations will be key to mass reduction because the body and
structure make up 35 percent of the average vehicles
weight and the chassis and suspension make up 25 percent,
Revved-up demand from
the automotive sector likely will bolster die casting
production in the fourth quarter, most manufacturers said
earlier this fall at the North American Die Casting
Associations Die Casting Congress in Louisville, Ky.
The positive outlook
came as producers continued to grapple with increased demand
for lightweight auto components. While some balked at the
difficulties presented by manufacturing lightweight components,
most called lightweighting beneficial to the industry.
is extremely positive for our sector as it is spurring a ton of
new designs and has, thus far, generated a lot of work for the
industry, a source at one die caster told AMM,
adding that those who dont participate in manufacturing
lightweight components could miss a majority of future
automotive business. Everything is getting lighter and
people have to start to understand this whole thing is by no
means going away.
also are poised to benefit from a surge in demand from the
automotive sector, but they must be vigilant against the threat
posed by competing materials, especially high-strength steels,
according to an Aluminum Extruders Council (AEC)
In the light vehicle
market alone, aluminum extruders could see demand increase by
300 million pounds annually by 2025, with per-vehicle content
expected to jump to between 38 and 39 pounds from 13.7 pounds
last year, said Lynn Brown, citing data from Troy, Mich.-based
market research firm Ducker Worldwide LLC.
cruise control, right? We just have to start planning for all
those additional pounds. ... Well, there are some folks who
have a different view of the world, Brown said at the AEC
Management Conference in Chicago. There is absolutely no
question that the steel industry is targeting aluminum.
Were the bulls eye for them. They want to make sure
we dont get too much larger than we are today.
Other materials, such
as magnesium and carbon fibers, also are looking to take market
share away from aluminum, Brown said. But, frankly, they
have some supply chain issues, which means they are less of a
significant competitor. The one we need to be prepared for is