TRAVERSE CITY, MI – Aluminum suppliers hoping to take advantage of concern over rising fuel prices got some harsh criticism here from John Mendel, senior vice president-automobile operations, American Honda Motor Co. Inc., during a Wednesday afternoon panel discussion at the Management Briefing Seminars.

“I never thought I’d see the day when aluminum was considered a precious metal, based on today’s prices,” he quipped.

Aluminum has been phased out of numerous North American vehicle programs – or never considered – at both Detroit-based and foreign-owned auto makers in recent years because of its high price, OEMs complain.

Mendel’s comments suggest the light metal still faces an uphill battle, even in an era of $3-per-gallon gas.