Severstal North America Inc. is looking to grow its footprint
in the automotive industry as it pushes to create
higher-quality steels, develop new technology and meet higher
standards for its automotive customers, according to Dennis
Johnson, the steelmakers vice president of quality,
advanced engineering and continuous improvement.
"One of the big things
were working on ... is that were seeing a lot more
from our customers in the automotive world who are asking us
for solutions. Theyre not asking us to give them
something, they want us to tell them what they need," Johnson
told AMM during an interview at Severstals
headquarters in Dearborn, Mich. "The old world is that they
would tell us what they need and we would do it. The new world
is that we tell them what they need and how to develop new
While automakers are
looking to meet certain requirements, including corporate
average fuel economy (CAFE) standards, they have been working
to push boundaries on new technologies to create steels with
better formability and stiffness, Johnson, who succeeded
29-year veteran Christopher Kristock (
amm.com, Sept. 27), said.
Case in point: the
steelmaker is in the middle of building its advanced
engineering lab, slated for completion in the middle of 2014,
to "develop materials quicker" and be "part of the solution
that the auto industry is looking for from us," he said.
After several delays
and setbacks in funding, the company is still committed to
building a new continuous annealing line at its Dearborn
operations to produce advanced ultra high-strength steels.
"What is needed in the
industry is more continuous annealing lines," he said.
"Were still actively pursuing that. We dont have a
specific timeline but its very much a part of the
discussion we have about our strategy and what we want to
While some in the
industry are concerned about steel losing in a big way to
alternative materials, including aluminum, particularly when it
comes to serving the needs of the automotive industry, Johnson
said those fears can be abated.
"The big three
(automakers) dont want to use (aluminum). They know that
steel is greener than aluminum, they know that steel is cheaper
than aluminum and they know that steel is more formable than
aluminum. ... I think that the American public isnt going
to accept taking trade-offs for safety in order to meet the
CAFE standards," he said.
"The American people
know that Superman is the man of steel. They know who Iron Man
is. Theres no aluminum man. When people think of
aluminum, they think of tin foil and Pepsi cans," he added. "I
think the American public will have a hard time accepting that
my car thats protecting my family is made of
Earlier this year,
Severstal announced it would dissolve its Double Eagle Steel
Coating Co. electrogalvanized steel joint venture with
Pittsburgh-based U.S. Steel Corp. in efforts to shift toward
its hot-dipped coated technology (
amm.com, July 15).
The team has done a
good job of transferring customers from its electrogalvanizing
line into its hot-dipped line, which Johnson said was running
at full capacity.
As for the future
automotive focus for Severstal, the company continues to look
into the market and deal with changes, he said.
"The numbers are
always changing. I think that its important to keep a
good mix because no one really knows whats going to
happen. But I dont see any indications that the
automotive industry will slow down anytime soon. Were
actively looking now about where we want our mix to be."