FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla.
Aluminum has a big role to play in the automotive
market, but high and volatile regional premiums are creating
challenges for the industry, a General Motors Co. executive
"I have not heard a
convincing explanation about why premiums went so high. For
Gods sake, its like the premium is the base price
and the price of aluminum is the premium," Saber Haidous,
Detroit-based GMs global commodity manager of global
purchasing and supply chain, said Jan. 14 at the Platts
Aluminum Symposium in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
The aluminum industry
must work together to address such volatility. "If somebody has
an efficient and visible approach, you are going to find us
with the door open," he said.
But Haidous also faced
criticism for what some attendees characterized as GMs
over-reliance on the London Metal Exchanges North
American special aluminum alloy contract despite wide spreads
between Nasaac and A380 prices. He pushed back against
suggestions that GM isnt working with its supply base on
"We are taking it on a
case-by-case basis. ... We are listening," Haidous said,
stressing that GM behaves differently than it did 10 to 15
years ago. "GM will not shut the door in your face ... we will
continue to listen."
And while Dearborn,
Mich.-based Ford Motor Co.s aluminum-bodied F-150 might
represent a new era for the industry (
amm.com, Jan. 13), market reaction is being
observed closely by vehicle manufacturers and consumers,
especially given the demands placed on pickup trucks, he said.
"Everyone is going to be watching ... to see how it will
Whether the aluminum
industry will be able to meet expected increases in auto demand
also remains a concern, Haidous said. "Everybody knows that
aluminum sheet is on an upward trend and cars tomorrow will
definitely be different than the ones today."
The question about
volume isnt only about production capacity, but also
high-value-added operations such as heat-treatment capacity, he
said. "You can make aluminum as much as you want, but you need
to make sure other operations ... are also out there."
The aluminum industry
also must work together if the metal is to continue to make
content gains in vehicles, Haidous said. "Dont get
divided, otherwise steel will take over."
Nor should the
industry become complacent, he said, noting the extensive use
of ultra-high-strength steels, thin and strong, in GMs
new Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra pickup trucks. "There is
a race among different materials ... and steel is not giving up
the fight easily," he said.
And while aluminum has
clear benefits in cutting weight and boosting fuel economy, the
industry must be careful to contain costs, Haidous said. "We
dont want expensive materials because this is going to be
passed on to the consumer. ... and this is the last thing we