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Automakers increasingly turn to aluminum to improve

Global aluminum use in automotive applications continues to grow, according to a new report commissioned by The Aluminum Association, Inc., and when compared to use of other metals, aluminum has now exceeded iron to become the second most used automotive material worldwide. Highlights of the report were unveiled by executives from Alcoa and Novelis, leading aluminum manufacturers, during a press conference today.

“Aluminum penetration in the auto industry continues to surpass competing materials as leading automakers recognize the metal’s value in boosting fuel economy, performance and safety, while reducing emissions. With today’s sky high fuel prices, rising global warming concerns and increasing safety demands, aluminum is a proven solution today, with even greater promise for tomorrow,” said Misha Riveros-Jacobson, president of advanced transportation systems for Alcoa.

Commissioned by the Auto & Light Truck Group (ALTG) of The Aluminum Association, Inc., and conducted by Ducker Worldwide, the study found that passenger vehicles in North America now contain an average of 319 pounds of aluminum representing a 16 percent increase from 2002 data, which now places aluminum second only to steel in automotive applications.

Also released today by the ALTG was a related value study on aluminum’s costs and related benefits. While the metal’s rising use confirms its cost benefit advantages in many applications today, the aluminum industry also documents the additional value and cost savings aluminum could offer as more of the metal is used in the future. The value study, conducted by IBIS Associates, reveals the potential for significant additional cost savings from secondary weight savings and associated cost reductions, which can significantly offset upfront materials costs.

“Aluminum’s value is far reaching since it can safely reduce weight, which means automakers can downsize components accordingly and recoup those secondary cost savings,” said Martha Brooks, chief operating officer for Novelis. “Consumers also can save money at the gas pump, as low weight vehicles using aluminum require less fuel to get around.”

Release of these new studies is well timed, given the fact the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration will soon issue new fuel-economy standards for SUVs, pickups and minivans for Model Year 2008 through 2011. NHTSA’s earlier draft rule proposed size-based standards, in part to encourage automakers to make even greater use of high strength, low weight materials like aluminum. NHTSA’s effort is consistent with recent studies by the aluminum industry and others, which confirm the size of a vehicle – not its weight – is a better measure of a vehicle’s safety. Therefore NHTSA’s new fuel economy rule encourages even greater use of aluminum and similar materials in order maintain or even increase vehicle size for safety, while reducing vehicle weight for improve fuel economy and reduced emissions.

“As the auto industry continues to innovate to meet consumer and government demands the world over, whether it’s through hybrid engines, cleaner fuels, or simply making cars and trucks more fun to drive, aluminum will continue to help build better cars and trucks,” summarized Stephen Larkin, president of The Aluminum Association, Inc. “Aluminum continues to provide solutions to the growing challenges of today and the future”.

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