Steel Industry Goes On Offensive After Ford F-150 Surprise
Industry Claims Automakers More Interested in Attributes than Materials
Since the auto industry’s inception, one material has dominated in the area of automotive bodies and frames: steel, which still has the lion’s share of the market. However, aluminum is being increasingly used by automakers looking to lighten their vehicles weight and raise fuel economy under pressure from government regulations. The use of aluminum got its biggest boost yet with the introduction of the 2015 Ford F-150, by far the industry’s largest-volume deployment of the material in automotive history. However, the steel industry isn’t sitting idly by and letting aluminum producers eat its lunch. Leading steel producer ArcelorMittal is going on the offensive with a multi-pronged, proactive approach, getting involved at earlier stages of vehicle development and working hard to come up with cost-competitive solutions that meet automaker’s engineering objectives, according to Bloomberg.
Brian Aranha, head of ArcelorMittal’s automotive business (the company’s most profitable division), said Ford’s development on the F-150 was kept highly confidential for many years and that the company was caught by surprise by the choice to go aluminum on the new truck. Although the proportion of steel to aluminum in the auto industry still favors the former by an overwhelming margin -- 150 million metric tons for steel compared to just 4.5 million tons of aluminum -- the industry recognizes aluminum as a competitive threat. Aranha said automakers aren’t categorically inclined toward aluminum but are simply looking for certain attributes in terms of weight and strength, which he believes the steel industry can meet.