Editors note: the wrong chart accompanied a report on Mr. Schultz's presentation in the Aug. 9 Ward's Auto World Show daily. A chart from his presentation accompanies this story.
You may read a lot about vehicles with aluminum bodies in the press, but that's not where most automotive aluminum ends up, points out Richard A. Schultz, a materials consultant for Ducker Research Company, Inc. during his presentation at the U-M Management Briefing Seminars in Traverse City last month.
U.S. automotive aluminum shipments have increased by 200% during the last 10 years, he says, but the lion's share of those shipments consist of cast components, not aluminum sheet. Seventy-nine percent of aluminum shipments in 1999 were castings for engines, transmissions, wheels and suspensions. The remaining 21% is made up of either mill or fabricated products for various applications. Only 2% of aluminum shipments can be classified as "auto body sheets," Mr. Schultz says.
"There's a lot of positive PR surrounding aluminum auto body sheet, but castings have been the real driver of increased aluminum content over the last 10 years and will continue to be the driver in the future," Mr. Schultz says.
His analysis of the future of light vehicle bodies in North America for the next 10 years leaves two sobering conclusions:
* The conversion of steel auto bodies to aluminum will only increase fuel economy by about 3 mpg, or 10%.
* Even though the cost and price of aluminum is expected to decrease over the long term, aluminum-intensive vehicles will always cost more than steel-intensive vehicles.