TRAVERSE CITY, Mich., Aug. 7 /PRNewswire/ -- A little test: What do the Space Shuttle, the HUMMER vehicle, and the Ferrari 360 Modena have in common? Answer: They are made from high performance aluminum, the material automakers are increasingly choosing to improve fuel economy, reduce emissions and enhance vehicle performance. American Metal Market (AMM), a metals trade journal, recently reported that aluminum will surpass plastic in the upcoming model year to become the third most-used material in light vehicles. "Steel and iron are the only materials still ahead of aluminum on the content scale, and iron interests have a lot to be concerned about in the competition from aluminum," AMM reported last week. According to AMM, high performance aluminum is the fastest growing class of major materials in the domestic auto market. Last week's announcement that the Ford Motor Company will improve the fuel economy in its SUVs is another signal that aluminum usage will increase even faster. "Automakers are responding to consumer demands for cleaner, more efficient and safer cars and trucks. Hybrid-electric technologies get lots of attention, but cost and complexity are preventing their immediate, widespread use," said Dr. Richard Klimisch, vice president of The Aluminum Association. "Engineers know that aggressive weight reduction is the best way to improve fuel economy, emissions and performance. For these reasons, as well as improved corrosion resistance and recyclability, automakers are more and more turning to lightweight, high-strength aluminum." Automakers have known for years that aluminum improves vehicle performance, but they've mostly applied it to specialty vehicles or very high- performance models. Examples include Acura's NSX, Audi's flagship A8 luxury sedan and the civilian HUMMER. As manufacturing methods have advanced, the aluminum advantage has become increasing affordable. Several production vehicles prove the feasibility of affordable and environmentally friendly aluminum-bodied vehicles. GM's EV1, the world's first modern electric vehicle, uses an advanced aluminum structure. Also equipped with a lightweight aluminum frame, the Honda Insight achieves an unprecedented 70 mpg on the highway. The big news this year for aluminum cars is the introduction of Audi's A2, the world's first high volume (60,000 units a year) aluminum-intensive vehicle. According to AMM, examples of parts being converted from iron and steel to aluminum for 2001 models include: * Front fenders and hoods on Ford's redesigned four-door Explorer and Mountaineer SUV. * Deck lids, bumper beams, hoods and wheels on the redesigned Oldsmobile Aurora. V-6 models will use aluminum-intensive suspensions. The Aurora will contain an estimated 480 pounds of aluminum. * Aluminum engines will replace heavy iron units in GM's new Duramax 6600 turbo diesel V-8 in model year 2001 GMC and Chevrolet 2500 and 3500 pickup trucks, crew cabs and other vehicles. Another reason for the increasing use of aluminum is the superior strength of aluminum. On a per pound basis, aluminum is twice as strong as steel, which allows the designer to provide strong, yet lightweight, crumple zones. These help protect vehicle occupants from injury in all kinds of collision. In addition, the use of aluminum in light trucks reduces the weight differential between cars and trucks, thereby reducing the risk of serious injuries to car passengers. At the same time, aluminum-intensive trucks and SUVs enjoy greater fuel economy while maintaining or improving the capacity for towing, hauling and payload. "We applaud Ford's commitment to make more environmentally-friendly SUVs. We're anxious to work with Ford Motor Company and other automakers to help them sell more cars and trucks with the added performance, safety and efficiency inherent in aluminum-intensive vehicles," Klimisch said. "In the end, the real winners are consumers who will drive better performing vehicles, while spending less money on fuel." The Aluminum Association, based in Washington, DC with offices in Detroit, Mich., represents primary producers of aluminum, recyclers, and producers of semi-fabricated products. Member companies operate almost 200 plants in 37 states. To learn more about automotive aluminum applications and attributes, please visit www.autoaluminum.org.
SOURCE Aluminum Association