TRAVERSE CITY, MI – After years of losing ground in automotive applications to aluminum, composites and other materials, steel is winning business back with lighter and higher-strength grades.

The principal driver is Dual Phase steel, a relatively new and highly formidable steel with low content and high strength. (See related story: GM to Emphasize Steel, Back Off Aluminum)

“Dual Phase clearly is leading the way,” says Jody Shaw, U.S. Steel Corp. technical industry manager-product technology automotive.

Despite technical advances, most vehicles are built with steel because of cost advantage.

DP is less expensive than another advanced high-strength steel, Transformation Induced Plasticity (TRIP) steels, he says. It’s also easier to use, especially in regards to welding, and a very good absorber of energy.

“And Dual Phase also has a wide range of properties,” Shaw notes.

Even as steel sheds its Rust Belt image for the technological limelight, the material’s best strength remains its low price.

“I hate to say it, but the biggest lever we do have isn’t our fantastic technology, but it’s our lower cost,” says Ron Krupitzer, senior director-automotive applications for the American Iron and Steel Institute.

“It’s hard to beat. So we still play that card every time.”

bcorbett@primediabusiness.com