Car builders tough customers
T HE automotive industry looms large in the steelmakers’ world, and they are now coming to terms with the need to virtually re- invent vehicle bodies in order to deal with global environmental issues.
As the International Iron & Steel Institute’s automotive group, WorldAuto Steel, puts it:
As the consensus builds for comprehensive reductions in greenhouse gas emissions across international boundaries, global steel companies are re- inventing the deployment of steel to reduce emissions, while still providing safe and affordable personal transportation for an increasingly mobile society.’’ The new approach, it adds, will provide automotive solutions that are light on cost, light on the environment and light on natural resources.’’
Unspun, this is recognition by steel makers that they have to come up with new ideas to prevent the aluminium industry from stealing their lunch as car sales soar because of the greater wealth in developing nations such as China, India and Brazil. And while consumers grow increasingly green in the face of global warming fears.
The steel industry hopes to win greater market share from the motor manufacturers by offering them a more cost- effective way to deal with their greenhouse gas problems, in addition to reducing tailpipe emissions.
Auto steel research has seen sheet- steel producers spend some $ US60 million in the past 10 years — not an especially large sum, given the size of the motor market — to come up with new concepts for light vehicle bodies in competition with the aluminium sector. The
Future Steel Vehicle’’ project, unveiled during last December’s UN global warming summit in Bali, signals their appreciation that they will have to run harder and faster.
The rivalry has led to a war of words between steel and aluminium producers over what can be achieved to reduce vehicle weight — and therefore fuel consumption — without undermining safety and durability, and what the costs are. The steel industry argues that its products are less energy- intensive, taking into account recycling at the end of a vehicle’s life, and less expensive than aluminium in the motor manufacturing process.