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  • North American Intl Auto Show

    The benefits of steel on display

Detroit auto show features the best of steel

A lot of attention is given to the challenges facing the domestic steel industry and our USA business. But, the 2016 North American International Auto Show (NAIAS) reminds us of the opportunities ahead for steel and ArcelorMittal, the world’s leading supplier of automotive steel.

The NAIAS kicked off in Detroit, Michigan on Monday, January 11 with press and industry preview days. The show is open to the public January 16 - 24 and features more than 750 cars, beautifully showcased across 17 acres in the Motor City’s Cobo Center.

“If you look around [the auto show floor], what you see is new vehicle after new vehicle where the dominant material is advanced high strength steel, a product that allows automakers to achieve their lightweighting objectives, fuel economy goals and safety standards,” said Brad Davey, VP, CMO ArcelorMittal North America and global automotive.

Steel in muscle cars and minivans, the affordable and the lavish
Automakers unveiled around 45 new production vehicles and experimental concept cars earlier this week, many of which featured the significant use of advanced high strength steel products and solutions offered by ArcelorMittal, including both the North American Car and Truck/Utility of the Year - the 2016 Honda Civic and 2016 Volvo XC90, respectively.

“ArcelorMittal has been collaborating for a long time with Volvo on the development of lightweight solutions and provided input to the design of the body structure of the XC90,” said Blake Zuidema, director of automotive product applications, ArcelorMittal Global R&D. “More than 40 percent of the steel that goes into the Volvo CX90 body structure is press hardened steel, Usibor® to be specific. It’s likely the highest vehicle made of press hardened steel on the road today.”

Other newly launched vehicles featuring ArcelorMittal steel products and solutions include: Chevrolet’s Camaro, Malibu and Cruz; the Chrysler Town & Country; Nissan’s Murano, Maxima and Titan; the GMC Acadia; four Mercedes classes – M, GL, C and GLE; the Lexus RX350; and BMW’s X3, 4, 5 and 6 series.

Steel industry has strong presence at 2016 show
The Steel Market Development Institute (SMDI), a business unit of the American Iron and Steel Institute (AISI) that works to increase and defend the use of steel in key markets including automotive, had a significant presence at the 2016 auto show with a booth prominently located just outside the main doors to the show and adjacent to the Michelin Media Center, where more than 5,000 journalists representing 60 countries and 40 states spent time preparing for interviews and filing stories. The booth touted the benefits of steel as it relates to lifecycle analysis. 

“Regulations today ignore manufacturing emissions, focusing only on those from the tailpipe,” explained Zuidema. “The steel industry believes that looking at a vehicle’s total lifecycle emissions — manufacturing, tailpipe and end-of-life recycling — is the only way to know whether greenhouse gases are increased or lowered by a particular vehicle.”

Environmental advantage of steel
ArcelorMittal, in partnership with SMDI, AISI and other industry partners, is working on a lifecycle based project that factually and conclusively demonstrates steel’s advantages over competing materials.

“The production of steel in North America results in four to five times fewer emissions than the production of aluminum,” said Lawrence W. Kavanagh, president of SMDI. “This environmental advantage gives designers and engineers another reason to continue to use steel and ensures the lowest emitting vehicles will be produced.”

SMDI Vice President of the automotive market, Dr. Jody Hall (left) with the Industry Innovator Mike Sweers, Chief Engineer for the Toyota Tundra and Tacoma vehicle programs and the Vice President of engineering design; William Joost who accepted the Community Hero award on behalf of the Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Vehicle Technologies; and Lawrence Kavanagh (right).

Awards for Energy Office and Toyota
SMDI also presented two awards to recognize those who serve as champions of steel for the industry. The Community Hero Award was presented to the 
Department of Energy Office of Vehicle Technologies, which supports research, development and deployment of efficient and sustainable highway transportation technologies to improve fuel economy and minimize petroleum use.

The Industry Innovator Award was presented to Mike Sweers, chief engineer for the Toyota Tundra and Tacoma vehicle programs and the vice president of engineering design – interior at Toyota Technical Center in Ann Arbor, Mich.

Toyota, through its Environmental Challenge 2050, is committed to reducing vehicle CO2emissions by 90 percent in comparison to 2010.

“We looked at the design, and we looked at the materials, and together with our different groups we realized that the solution was clear. High-strength steel and ultra-high-strength steel helped us to optimize our design and reduce the mass of our vehicle,” said Sweers. “For our customers, it’s cost of ownership. Using steel, the repair cost and insurance cost can be lower and recyclability with steel is proven. So we know that when our vehicle life is done that the steel will end up in new products.”

Record level auto sales drives economic revival
The auto show came on the heels of announcements that 2015 marked a new record for automotive sales in North America, with about 17.5 million cars sold, overtaking the 17.3 million record from 2000.

“Consumer confidence has been increasing in recent years and car buyers were energized by improving wages, a sense of job security, and lower oil and gas prices,” said Davey. “Additionally, the average age of vehicles on the road is more than 11 years old, sparking significant pent up demand from a culture that enjoys and appreciates a new set of wheels.

“Automotive is a bright spot in the U.S. economy, and ArcelorMittal stands ready to continue collaborating with automakers to ensure cars of the future meet lightweighting, performance, cost and safety objectives, and ensuring our products and solutions accelerate a more sustainable lifestyle for consumers,” Davey added.

Related video

Advanced high strength steel at the Auto Show

Watch our NAIAS 2016 video report here


“The production of steel in North America results in four to five times fewer emissions than the production of aluminum.”
- Lawrence W. Kavanagh, president of SMDI