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New metals may trim autos’ weight by 3.5% in 2015

Automakers will use higher-strength steel, aluminum and magnesium to lop 3.5% from the weight of their cars and light trucks by 2015, a materials-forecasting company predicted.

Lighter metals will help trim the average passenger vehicle to £3,908 (€5,745) from £4,050 (€5,954), closely held Ducker Worldwide said in a study yesterday at the Great Designs in Steel conference in Livonia, Michigan. Steel weight will fall by £200 (€294). North American automakers and suppliers are using more light, high-strength steel to improve fuel economy, add features without packing on weight, and increase safety.

The switch may help ease the appetite for conventional steel, whose price has doubled in five years because of demand from China and India. „It improves safety and takes a little weight out of the vehicle,” said Dick Schultz, a metallurgist who conducted the study for Troy, Michigan-based Ducker. „That hasn’t translated into fuel economy yet because the weight is being added back in with navigation systems and features like that.”

The information gathered for the forecast came from vehicle development projections made by automakers in North America, Schultz said. He predicted demand will increase by 25% for aluminum and 150% for magnesium. The conference was sponsored by the American Iron and Steel Institute. The price for a ton of flat hot-rolled steel, the type used to make vehicles, has increased to more than $500 yesterday from about $250 in 2002, said Ron Krupitzer, the institute’s vice president of automotive applications.


High-strength steel costs about 8% more, so revenue at steel companies will likely not be hurt by the switch to lighter materials, Schultz said. Steel prices fell 19% from August to February, Purchasing Magazine said last month. Priced ebbed in part as manufacturers including General Motors Corp., Ford Motor Corp. and DaimlerChrysler AG’s Chrysler Group made fewer automobiles.

Price reductions aren’t likely to persist, said John Ferriola, the executive vice president who oversees automotive customers for Nucor Corp., the second-largest US steel producer. „We are in a 30-year commodity run,” Ferriola said in an interview. „Even with the efficiencies in steel production, I believe at the end of it all you are going to see a steady incline slope of prices.” (Bloomberg)