Global Automakers Still Deem Steel Their Material of Choice

Steel Remains Dominant At Auto Show

DETROIT, MI, January 10, 2000 – Journalists and show visitors will see much that is new at the 2000 North American International Auto Show. But, they also will see much that is very familiar – lots and lots of strong, safe, affordable, lightweight and environmentally friendly steel.

The vast majority of production cars, sport utility vehicles and light trucks, along with a profusion of concept vehicles, use steel as their primary material for structures, body panels, closures, bumpers and wheels.

And with good reason: In spite of aggressive steps by competing materials and driven by vehicle makers to make more environmentally benign vehicles, the steel industry continues to meet its customers’ requirements and, thus, has maintained its dominant position as the material of choice for vital structural and other applications.

Steel has been able to sustain its 55 percent share of average vehicle weight over the past dozen or more years because the steel industry has continually improved the performance of its material, severely limiting opportunities for competing materials to gain much at steel’s expense.

During the past two decades, automakers’ use of high-strength and ultra high-strength steel sheet has outpaced the growth rate of aluminum by 13 percent, making it the fastest growing automotive lightweighting material. (Nearly eighty percent of aluminum usage is in cast applications -- engine blocks, transmissions and wheels. Less than two percent of auto aluminum goes into body structures and closures.)

Steel is the world’s most recycled metal. It is the chief reason for the nearly 100 percent recycling rate for out-of-service automobiles. Steel is easy and inexpensive to recycle as it uses magnetic separation and requires no sorting by alloy in advance.

Steel sheet is an unsurpassed material for producing crashworthy vehicles and offers engineers the greatest design flexibility for packaging engines, passengers and cargo.

Additionally, the steel industry’s continuing work is helping automakers to produce vehicles that reduce emissions of harmful greenhouse gases, including CO2.

Over the past seven years, the steel industry has engaged a series of research initiatives to demonstrate and communicate the capabilities of the steel industry to meet society’s demand for safe, affordable, environmentally responsible vehicles for the 21st century.

The latest of these is the ULSAB-AVC (Advanced Vehicle Concepts) project, which will present advanced vehicle concepts to help automakers use steel more efficiently and provide a structural platform for achieving:

  • Anticipated crash safety requirements for 2004,

  • Significantly improved fuel efficiency,

  • Optimized environmental performance regarding emissions, source reduction and recycling,

  • High volume manufacturability at affordable costs.

Unlike its predecessor project ULSAB, ULSAB-AVC goes beyond the body-in-white and will include the suspension, engine cradle, closures and all structural and safety-related components.

Scheduled for completion in mid-2001, ULSAB-AVC builds on the industry’s previous projects, ULSAB, ULSAS, ULSAC (UltraLight Steel Auto Body, Suspensions and Closures, respectively) and LTS (Light Truck Structures), which have shown the significant weight reduction and performance improvement potential of steel. For example, ULSAB demonstrated weight reduction of the body structure of up to 36 percent, compared to benchmarked vehicles, with a substantial improvement in performance and at no increase in cost. These low cost, high performance solutions enhance steel’s competitive position and increase the difficulty for competing materials to displace the incumbent steel.

The Automotive Applications Committee (AAC) is a subcommittee of the Market Development Committee of AISI and focuses on advancing the use of steel in the highly competitive automotive market. With offices and staff located in Detroit, cooperation between the automobile and steel industries has been significant to its success. This industry cooperation resulted in the formation of the Auto/Steel Partnership, a consortium of DaimlerChrysler, Ford and General Motors and the member companies of the AAC.

This release and other steel-related information are available for viewing and downloading at American Iron and Steel Institute/Automotive Applications Committee’s website at

American Iron and Steel Institute/
Automotive Applications Committee:
AK Steel Corporation
Bethlehem Steel Corporation
Dofasco Inc.
Ispat Inland Inc.
National Steel Corporation
Rouge Steel Company
Stelco Inc.
United States Steel Corporation
WCI Steel, Inc.
Weirton Steel Corporation