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Steel ‘in battle’ in automotive: ArcelorMittal

Keywords: Tags  steel, advanced high-strength steel, automotive market, battle, competitive materials, aluminum, ArcelorMittal, Lakshmi N. Mittal Louis L. Schorsch

CHICAGO — Advanced high-strength steels are regaining market share in automotive applications that previously favored aluminum, ArcelorMittal SA executives said.

And while adoption of advanced high-strength steels by automakers will lead to a reduction in tons shipped to the auto sectors, the amount of steel used by vehicle manufacturers as measured by surface area could remain unchanged, they said.

In Europe, the Luxembourg-based steelmaker has already had success convincing some automotive original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) to switch aluminum doors back to steel, company chairman and chief executive officer Lakshmi N. Mittal said during an earning conference call May 9.

The steel door is "a very close" match to aluminum in terms of weight but comes "at a significantly lower cost," Mittal said. "We are now promoting this solution, and it is under evaluation at various OEMs," he said, adding that "steel remains the material of choice for automotive."

In North America, ArcelorMittal’s ability to offer advanced steels to the automotive sector has been bolstered by its acquisition—with Tokyo-based Nippon Steel & Sumitomo Metal Corp.—of Essen, Germany-based ThyssenKrupp AG’s plant in Calvert, Ala., Mittal said. The plant, running at about 80-percent capacity utilization, cements ArcelorMittal’s position in the United States and Mexico "for at least the next decade," he said.

The former ThyssenKrupp plant, acquired for $1.55 billion, has been renamed AM/NS Calvert (, Feb. 28). Mittal called the deal the "key highlight" of the company’s first quarter.

While ArcelorMittal is in a "battle" with competing materials in the automotive sector, it also is in good position to provide sophisticated steels to automakers on a global basis, Louis L. Schorsch, chief executive officer of ArcelorMittal’s Americas division, said. "There is a lot of technology being developed by our company and others to try to respond," he said, referring to competing materials such as aluminum.

Schorsch agreed with an analyst who said that increased adoption could see a reduction of tons shipped to the automotive sector. But the company expects to "get a better premium" for advanced high-strength steels. "In terms of tonnage, the volumes will come down. But in terms of square meters, it could potentially be the same if we win that race" with competing materials, he said.

Steel faces a battle with aluminum and other materials in North America and Europe, according to ArcelorMittal’s Aditya Mittal, chief financial officer, principal accounting officer and member of the group management board. But in Europe there has been to date "more acceptance" of advanced high-strength steels and therefore a more developed infrastructure has evolved to supply them to the automotive sector, he said.

"In North America, we are making efforts to replicate that as we speak," Mittal said.

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