The North American International Auto Show (NAIAS) took place in January 2017. This much anticipated show features more than 750 vehicles and countless interactive displays in the Motor City’s Cobo Center. On the heels of North American automakers selling an all-time record 17.5 million vehicles last year, automakers were anxious to debut new production vehicles and experimental concept cars. Many of these vehicles featured a significant use of advanced high strength steel (AHSS) products and solutions offered by ArcelorMittal.
"The biggest trend we’re seeing is in AHSS. Most vehicles that are being launched are increasing their percentage of AHSS by 10, 20, even 30 percent over the vehicles they replace. They are achieving significant lightweighting, but most importantly, they are hitting on the core values of safety and, of course, performance for the consumer,” said Brad Davey, chief marketing offer, ArcelorMittal North America and Global Automotive.”
In fact, the North American Car, Truck and Utility Vehicle of the Year all feature advanced steels – the 2017 Chevy Bolt, Honda Ridgeline and Chrysler Pacifica, respectively.
“Consumer confidence has been increasing in recent years and car buyers are energized by improving wages, a sense of job security, and lower oil and gas prices,” said Davey. “Automotive is a bright spot in our economy and our business. ArcelorMittal stands ready to continue collaborating with automakers to ensure cars of the future meet lightweighting, performance, cost and safety objectives. We're also ensuring our products and solutions accelerate a more sustainable lifestyle for consumers.”
Brad Davey, chief marketing offer, ArcelorMittal North America and Global Automotive
For the third consecutive year, the Steel Market Development Institute (SMDI), a business unit of the American Iron and Steel Institute (AISI) that works to promote and expand the use of steel in key markets including automotive, served as a premier sponsor of the NAIAS. The SMDI booth was prominently located across from the main doors of the show and adjacent to the Michelin Media Center. Here, 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 life cycle analysis.
“The year’s exhibit space featured an ‘accelerating innovation’ theme, promoting steel’s superiority over alternative materials when looking at performance, value and sustainability,” said Dr. Jody Hall, vice president, SMDI automotive market. “The body-in-white structures of two award-winning vehicles – the Honda Ridgeline and Chrysler Pacifica – were also on display. The fact these vehicles of the year were in our exhibit allowed us to point out how steel contributes to the superior performance needed in many categories to win the prestigious awards.”
SMDI presented two awards to recognize those who serve as champions of steel for the industry. The Industry Innovator Award was presented to Gregory Warden, executive director and global functional leader, body, exterior & dimensional engineering at General Motors (GM). The award acknowledges automotive designers or engineers who showcase superior innovation in their use of AHSS. Warden’s team is leading in the application and advancement of AHSS. Thanks to companies like GM, who fully exploit the properties and value of steel, the growth of AHSS has exceeded expectations.
In his acceptance speech, Warden discussed the advantages of steel and what it will take to keep steel the material of choice: “Steel continues today to be the overwhelming choice because it offers the best value. There is a tremendous amount that is going on in the industry regarding the advancement of this material. It’s not just the base material, but what it takes to integrate it in a design environment…to get all you can out of the solution.
"It’s very clear when you study vehicles today that the equation continues to be dominated by steel. I don’t see that changing substantially, provided we continue to partner very aggressively and collaborate across OEMs and across the steel industry to get into the next generation of steels. There is a whole other generation coming of steel grades that offer advanced strength and enhanced manufacturing, formability and capability that we will be leveraging going forward,” Warden said.
SMDI also presented its Community Hero to Steve Marks, industry technical support manager at Inter-Industry Conference on Auto Collision Repair (I-CAR). The award recognizes individuals and organizations whose work using steel impacts the quality of life of the community. Marks’ work includes conducting research on collision repair, OEM contract training and development, and he serves as a lead instructor for certification programs. Marks educates the next generation of technicians about the repair processes for steel, which have been widely taught for many years. As steel is reinvented and new grades are produced, Marks aids in the redevelopment of the repair process making sure it is as advanced as the new steels.
In addition to the North American Car, Truck and Sport Utility Vehicle of the Year, other newly launched vehicles featuring advanced high-strength steels and solutions include: Honda’s Accord and Odyssey; the Jeep Renegade and Compass; Chevy’s Equinox and Traverse; the Ford Edge; Toyota’s Camry and RAV4; the Nissan Titan; Infiniti’s QX50; and the Subaru Impreza.
ArcelorMittal, in partnership with SMDI and industry partners, is working to promote the benefits of steel over competing materials. Specifically, the American steel industry wants automakers and regulators to understand each material’s life cycle footprint to factually and decisively conclude that steel is more advantageous over alternative materials.
Bala Krishnan, director of automotive product applications, ArcelorMittal Global R&D
“Now, more than ever, we’re turning to total life cycle analysis to look at the carbon footprint of vehicles. The reason for that is not all materials have the same carbon footprint. For example, to produce aluminum requires five times the carbon dioxide compared to steel. And when we include the manufacturing phase, we find steel vehicles have substantially lower carbon footprints and are much more environmentally friendly than other lightweight materials,” said Bala Krishnan, director of automotive product applications, ArcelorMittal Global R&D. “Only when we look at the full life cycle – not just the driving phase – but the manufacturing and recycling phases, do we find the real benefits of steel.”