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Aluminum use in autos set to explode: Ducker

Keywords: Tags  aluminum, autos, sheet, lightweighting, Alcoa, Novelis, Ford, General Motors BMW

NEW YORK — Aluminum sheet usage for light vehicle body and closure parts will grow from less than 200 million pounds in 2012 to approximately 4 billion pounds by 2025, according to a study by Ducker Worldwide LLC.

Aluminum usage will grow exponentially over the next decade, with consumption in 2015 surpassing records set in previous decades by approximately 1 billion pounds, the Troy, Mich.-based market research firm said.

In 2015, pickup trucks will feature an average of 548.9 pounds of aluminum per vehicle, followed closely by alternative fuel segment sedans at 546.9 pounds, sport utility vehicles at 410.3 pounds and minivans at 396.5 pounds, according to the study.

The projected growth of aluminum rolled products for automotive applications will require a "tremendous increase in heat-treating capacity," Ducker said, adding that Dearborn based Ford Motor Co., Detroit-based General Motors Co. and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles will be the biggest consumers of aluminum sheet through 2025.

Domestic aluminum manufacturers are currently undertaking large-scale infrastructure projects to increase capacity in anticipation of future demand.

Atlanta-based Novelis Inc. expects the automotive industry to account for 20 percent of its product mix by 2017 (, May 19). The company has said that it will have to consider significant investments in capacity to capture market share beyond its current contractual obligations.

"That 20-percent estimate is based on contractually committed volume," Novelis vice president and chief financial officer Steven Fisher told AMM May 19. "We are certainly in a position to discuss other opportunities with major manufacturers, but in that sense, we would have to evaluate our overall capacity capabilities."

Pittsburgh-based Alcoa Inc. is also ramping up in preparation for explosive growth over the next decade. "Body-in-white is the next transition for automotive and it will drive significant growth in aluminum usage over the next 10 to 12 years," Alcoa’s executive vice president and chief financial officer William F. Oplinger said May 14 (, May 14). "We’re showing a 60-percent increase in the intensity of aluminum usage in cars between now and 2025 due to the body-in-white transition that’s going on."

Current market leaders in aluminum usage include Munich-based BMW AG; Stuttgart, Germany-based Mercedes-Benz; and Palo Alto, Calif.-based Tesla Motors Inc., each of which will exceed the average aluminum content and the average aluminum share of curb weight in 2015, the study said.

Products that will benefit from lightweighting initiatives include aluminum heat-treated and non-heat- treated sheet, extruded shapes and tube as well as vacuum-assisted high-pressure die castings, the study said, citing automakers’ need to use more aluminum to save weight and improve fuel economy by about 90 percent by 2025.

Industry analysts believe that vehicles featuring a mix of aluminum, high strength steel, and composites will likely dominate the sector, though concerns persist about galvanic corrosion, especially where steel and aluminum are joined (, April 14). Ducker believes that the material mix will lean more heavily toward aluminum over the next decade, noting that "50 years of uninterrupted aluminum growth (1975-2025) for North American manufactured light vehicles is guaranteed ... there is nothing on the horizon that would indicate that this burst in aluminum growth can be significantly slowed over the next ten years."

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  • Steel Market Development Institute
    Jun 10, 2014

    Ronald Krupitzer, Vice President of Automotive Market for the Steel Market Development Institute, said, “The Aluminum Association’s 2015 North American Light-Vehicle Aluminum Content Study shows survey results of estimated materials shifts, most notably, to the use of more aluminum in light vehicles. The report also shows some limited results on the growth of advanced high-strength steel and forecasts the continued growth of these products as well. At issue is the magnitude of the estimated growth rates of each. It is our job at SMDI to maximize the growth of AHSS and thereby reduce the intrusion of alternative materials in automotive, a job we fully expect to complete. “New vehicles currently being designed have targeted mass reduction levels, most of which can be accomplished with AHSS. These new AHSS solutions, which are being evaluated now against competing materials, in many cases offer similar mass savings at much lower cost. “Our industry believes the amount of mass reduction and the better value of AHSS will win many future large vehicles. Ultimately, while materials competition will continue, the cost effectiveness of our products and the lightweight designs they enable will create a different future than estimated in this forecast.”

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