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Aluminum Frenzy Still On The Up-rise Part I

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You may as well get used to the aluminum frenzy because I can tell you that it is not going away. Those of you that thought that this was a passing trend are in for a big surprise. The auto industry is in the middle of their own competitive nature and are aggressively looking for the way to make aluminum work for them and across what countries will this impact production? What’s coming down the pipeline and how will these changes continue to affect you?

Manufacturers are only just warming up and there is far more coming our way. Already there are vehicles made with more aluminum body panels, such as the doors, roofs and trunks. We already know about the Ford F150 coming out this fall with a projected annual sales of $650,000.  Ford has said that by 2017 they will make more than 1 million vehicles with aluminum bodies.

The rush to aluminum is chock-full of complexities. Aluminum is more expensive than steel. Manufacturing plants need to master how to bond and rivet aluminum parts. Body shop repair technicians need extra training to work on aluminum.

And the industry has many competing ways to boost fuel economy. The Ram 1500 pickup fitted with a diesel, for instance, gets 28 mpg on the highway, tops for full-sized pickups.

But for now, aluminum is hot. To meet growing demand:

Alcoa Inc. is expanding a Tennessee plant to boost production of automotive-grade sheet aluminum used to make hoods, doors and other stamped body parts. The company has applied for a Department of Energy loan to pay for the expansion, which is expected to be completed next year.

Alcoa officials say the company has secured long-term contracts for the aluminum that will be produced at the expanded plant.

Todd Sudeck

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