Automotive Aluminum Use Reaches All-Time High In 2009
New Study Confirms Automakers Continue To Innovate With Lightweight Material
- Aluminum content reaches an all-time high at 8.6 percent of average vehicle curb weight in 2009, continuing almost 40 years of uninterrupted growth in North America
- Industry experts rank aluminum use as a top option and "very significant" to meet federal mandate of improved fuel economy by 40 percent by 2020
- Long-term worldwide growth of aluminum content expected to continue in automotive applications
Arlington, Va. (March 19, 2009) /PRNewswire/ — New data released today indicates automakers continue to innovate with greater use of aluminum to boost fuel economy, cut emissions and improve safety. A new study by Ducker Worldwide, commissioned by The Aluminum Association, Inc., confirms that in North America the use of automotive aluminum is at an all-time high, averaging 8.6 percent of vehicle curb weight in 2009 calendar year vehicles, up from just 2 percent in 1970 and 5.1 percent in 1990. Additionally, the integration of aluminum in cars and light trucks is projected to be nearly 11 percent of curb weight by 2020.
On a worldwide basis, the amount of aluminum content for light vehicles is 7.8 percent of the average worldwide light vehicle curb weight of 3,185 pounds in 2009. Content growth is predicted to continue at a rate of four-to-five pounds per vehicle, per year, and approach 300 pounds per vehicle worldwide in 2020.
"The data demonstrates that automakers in North America and around the globe continue to recognize the value of automotive aluminum," said Buddy Stemple, chairman of the Aluminum Association's Auto & Light Truck Group. "As automakers seek to innovate and differentiate themselves with more fuel efficient cars and trucks with a reduced carbon footprint, the time to use advanced materials like aluminum is now – and this study shows that automakers agree."
North America Continues To Lead
North America ranks as the world leader in aluminum penetration in cars, pickups, SUVs and minivans where a net increase of more than eight pounds occurred between 2006 and 2009 calendar year vehicles despite a 10 percent loss in share for large, full-frame vehicles with high aluminum content. More than 50 vehicles produced in North America contain over 10 percent aluminum content.
Honda and BMW are now the aluminum content leaders replacing General Motors and Nissan with both companies averaging more than 340 pounds of aluminum per vehicle. General Motors, Honda, Toyota, BMW, Hyundai and Volkswagen all increased the amount of aluminum content of their North American vehicles from 2006 to 2009.
On a component basis, the study cites engine blocks and steering knuckles with the largest increase in growth over the last three years; with penetration of aluminum blocks reaching nearly 70 percent – the largest driver of aluminum growth in this decade. In addition, more than 22 percent of vehicles currently made in the U.S. have aluminum hoods, an all-time record.
"We're seeing continued growth of automotive aluminum because of the relevant advantages it offers, such as improved fuel economy and vehicle safety," said Stemple. "In fact, hybrid and diesel vehicles when paired with aluminum can actually pay consumers back faster than if those vehicles were made of heavier steel."
Global Growth Continues
Since the 2006 model year, aluminum content has also experienced steady growth in light vehicle applications in other regions of the world, but especially in Europe and Japan. Long-term growth rates remain in line with the significant growth rates of the late 1970s to early 1990s, despite the shift to smaller vehicles.
Worldwide aluminum content is projected to grow to 28 to 30 billion pounds per year - up from the current 16 to 17 billion pounds – between now and 2020, not taking scrap and spare parts into account.
An estimated total of 67 vehicles from the European (49) and Japanese (18) markets now contain more than 400 pounds of finished aluminum.
Experts Weigh In
As the future of the global automotive industry quickly shifts to more fuel-efficient products, vehicles around the world will be manufactured with a variety of solutions and powertrain improvements. In fact, material experts and body engineers surveyed in this study expect 25 percent of fuel economy improvement to come from weight savings, while powertrain experts predict that 50 percent of the improvements will be the result of weight reduction.
For North America specifically, automakers and other experts ranked the use of aluminum as a replacement for heavier materials as a "very significant" option to improve fuel economy to 35 miles-per-gallon by 2020 and nearly as important as hybrid technology.
Other highlights from the study include:
- Secondary (recycled) aluminum is expected to continue to represent at least 50 percent of the total amount of automotive aluminum used through 2020.
- Aluminum usage in Chinese vehicles is predicted to surpass Japanese automakers by 2020.
- Aluminum anti-lock breaking system housings will be on 85 percent of 2009 vehicles.
- Nearly one half of all 2009 models will have at least one pair of aluminum steering knuckles.
The Aluminum Association will host a Webinar on Tuesday, April 7, at 1:30 p.m. Eastern to review these research results in detail. To register for the Webinar or for more information on the study and the overall advantages of automotive aluminum, please visit www.autoaluminum.org or call 248.824.8200.
The Aluminum Association's Auto & Light Truck Group (ALTG) communicates the benefits of automotive aluminum to help accelerate its penetration through research programs and related outreach activities. Its mission is to serve member companies and act as a central resource for the automotive industry on aluminum issues. Member companies include: Alcoa Inc., Novelis Inc., Alcan Inc, Aluminum Precision Products Inc., Kaiser Aluminum Corporation and Sapa Group.