Relaxed corporate average fuel economy (CAFE) standards and
improvements to vehicle engines have made it so material
substitution is no longer mandatory in order to meet 2025
Café targets, suppliers said on the sidelines of the
Aluminum Assn’s 2017 Spring Meeting in the US
state of Georgia, which ran from March 27 to 29.
That said, aluminium’s presence in future vehicles
in expected to grow thanks to performance enhancements that the
material is seen providing over steel.
Suppliers have seen automotive customers become less worried
about meeting weight-saving targets, but continue to
increasingly substitute aluminium in such components as the
battery box, a spokeswoman for Netherlands-based Constellium NV
told AMM on March 28. Additionally, Constellium’s
process of working with OEMs on new components from genesis to
completion allows the automakers to simultaneously cut costs to
produce the component in aluminium while making sure the
maximum benefit is derived from the part.
According to market participants, the end result is a vehicle
to which consumers have been reacting positively.
"As evidenced by success of the F-150, customers like the way
the car and light trucks drive - its feel, and the safety and
insurance performance have been good," Subodh Das, ceo of
USA-based consultancy Phinix LLC, told AMM on March 30.
"Customers with check books [...] have the ultimate say."
USA-based Ford Motor Co’s aluminium-intensive
F-150 pickup truck has proven to be the catalyst for a trend
that has allowed OEMs to save money by incorporating a smaller
V6 engine into the vehicle. Combined with a turbo boost that
the automaker calls "EcoBoost," Ford is able to realise net
savings on the vehicle, as a smaller engine combined with
aluminium sheet is said to be cheaper than heavier - but
cheaper - steel alternatives with a larger V8 engine.
A Ford spokesman did not immediately respond to
AMM’s request for comment on how much money the
company saves per vehicle due to the combination of aluminium
sheet with a smaller engine.
Customers have embraced Ford’s F-Series trucks,
with 820,799 units sold in 2016
As such, aluminium suppliers are not worried about the effects
of the purported relaxation of CAFE standards by US president
Donald Trump’s administration. In an AMM poll that
closed on March 31, some 43% of readers said that aluminium
demand in automotive applications is "unlikely" to be reduced
due to relaxed CAFE standards, with another 11% indicating it
would not be reduced at all.
Meanwhile, about 45% of readers responded that relaxed CAFE
rules would "definitely" or "probably" weaken aluminium demand.
Auto industry experts have said that it is unlikely the auto
industry will change course on how it builds new vehicles
despite the decision by US regulators to reopen the midterm
review of CAFE standards, combined with the expectation that
the Trump administration would relax standards. One analyst
told AMM in mid-March that the industry is on a trajectory that
is not going to reverse.
Likewise, an executive at Kaiser Aluminum Corp, based in the US
state of California, said in February that even if CAFE
standards are softened, and despite slower than anticipated
vehicle platform transitions, aluminium extrusion sales are
expected to be prosperous due to solid demand.