ROCHESTER, MI – The global steel industry’s capacity to produce advanced high-strength steel will more than double in a decade, says the president and CEO of a leading steel-forming technology provider.

“Today, there are about 120 production systems in the world,” Schuler’s Timothy McCaughey tells WardsAuto. “We believe there will be over 250 pretty soon. For sure within 10 years.”

McCaughey offers his forecast here on the sidelines of a manufacturing technology symposium sponsored by Schuler.

Demand is being driven by government mandates that call for improved fuel economy and lower emissions in markets such as the U.S. and Europe. AHSS, which affords weight reduction without compromising crashworthiness, can make compliance easier.

While aluminum often is top-of-mind when auto makers consider weight-reduction strategies, “high-strength steel is still very important,” McCaughey says, adding, the auto industry can expect to see a proliferation of A-pillar and roof-post applications as auto makers also wrestle with U.S. roof-crush standards.

A Ducker Worldwide study released this week indicates the per-vehicle content of AHSS will increase 250 lbs. (113 kg) by 2025. And because the material is lighter than other steel grades, the increase will contribute to an average weight reduction approaching 80 lbs. (36 kg).

Jens Aspacher, Schuler sales manager-press hardening, puts some flesh on the bones of the Ducker research when he tells the symposium to expect strong demand for press-hardened automotive parts.

By 2015, the number of press-hardened parts produced annually will total 350 million, nearly triple last year’s tally of 124 million, Aspacher says, noting the number was just 8 million as recently as 1997.

Against this backdrop, McCaughey acknowledges aluminum can offer robust performance, too.

“There are companies discussing full aluminum-bodied trucks,” he reveals. And such vehicles promise “tremendous” crashworthiness while retaining the utility expected of today’s steel-intensive, body-on-frame trucks, McCaughey adds.

The Ducker study suggests per-vehicle aluminum content will double by 2025. “There’s quite a bit going on in our market right now,” McCaughey says.

emayne@wardsauto.com