Aluminum Frenzy Still On The Up-rise Part III


GM product chief Mark Reuss said he worries about repair costs.

“I read in Automotive News about the tools required to fix an aluminum truck. I saw those costs. We know it’s expensive,” he said at a technology conference in Detroit last week.

Aluminum-free Ram

At Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, CEO Sergio Marchionne said last month that the Ram pickup is not the best use of aluminum in the Chrysler Group lineup.

But he hinted that the next-generation Jeep Wrangler SUV, due to start production in 2017, could be the first Chrysler vehicle to get an aluminum body.

Chrysler has made big strides in boosting the fuel economy of the hot-selling Ram. With a V-6 gasoline engine, the Ram is rated at 25 mpg on the highway, highest for any full-sized pickup with a gasoline engine.

The Ram with an optional EcoDiesel engine is rated at 28 mpg on the highway, the highest ever achieved by a full-sized pickup.

Emmanuel Rosner, an analyst for CLSA Americas, says the increased capacity being installed by Alcoa and Novelis doesn’t necessarily mean that an automaker has committed to another aluminum-bodied vehicle.

The higher volume could be used for stamped body parts instead of entire bodies. “If they don’t go for full aluminum bodies, they may try to achieve similar outcomes through a combination of high-strength steel and some aluminum panels. For that, you don’t even have to make a major redesign,” Rosner says.

“If you just go for the hood, like the current F-150 has, you don’t need to change the entire production process. It becomes somewhat less effective, but also a less onerous type of bet.”

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