“Fuel-Efficiency Rules Are Already Raising Costs in Detroit” – Wall Street Journal, 22 January 2014

Even though GM and Chrysler have paid off their auto-bailout loans, they are still under the thumb of Uncle Sam; elements of Obama’s Climate Action Plan do not only extend towards power plants, but automakers as well. According to the Climate Action Plan, car companies’ products have to average 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025. This, however, requires huge design changes that are going to be a big blow to profit margins.

America’s best-selling vehicle, the Ford F150, is getting a complete redesign. from the inside out. It will be the first truck and large-volume vehicle to have an all-aluminum body, which will lower its weight and increase its fuel efficiency. Obama’s Climate Action Plan requires full-size trucks to have a better fuel efficiency, up to 30 mpg from the current 20 mpg.

Switching to aluminum, though better for the environment, is an expensive move. As we reported last month, converting to aluminum means higher material costs and new manufacturing machinery. While the price tag is high, Ford can’t fight the new regulations, and is instead doing all it can to effectively market the innovation behind its newly redesigned products, the F150 and Mustang—the latter redesign offers a never-before-seen turbocharged four-cylinder engine. Each sale of the redesigned F150 contributes an additional $10,000 to Ford’s bottom line.

GM, on the other hand, is creating a whole new midsize truck to meet Obama’s requirements, which they believe will be less costly. Chrysler, instead, is spending more on nine-speed transmissions and diesel engines.

Obama had hoped that the market for electric cars would increase; as a bid in that direction, an element of the Climate Action Plan allows automakers to acquire mpg credits for manufacturing zero-emission vehicles. However, the demand for electric vehicles is still low, proving that that kind of car is still a niche product. Pricing for electric cars start at $40,000 and only increase from there.

While it is always painful to have a winner and loser, the “materials selection war” (steel vs. aluminum) is a long-term societal consideration and climate change mitigation, where aluminum is the ultimate winner. These trends will force America to increase the recycling of post-consumer aluminum products—as opposed to landfill and scrap export—and to also increase the design and manufacturing of recycle-friendly alloys.

There is simply not enough expensive and energy-intensive primary aluminum capacity available to meet higher aluminum demand of 100 million, and growing, cars per year.

See also:
Will All-Aluminum Cars Drive Metals Industry?
A Clean Car Boom
GM Planning Strict Diet for New Pickup Trucks

Developed and Written by Dr. Subodh Das and Tara Mahadevan

February 12, 2014

Phinix LLC

Copyright 2013. All rights Reserved by Phinix, LLC.

www.phinix.net    skdas@phinix.net

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“Will All-Aluminum Cars Drive Metals Industry?” – Wall Street Journal, 13 January 2014

Obama’s 2010 mandate that obligates car manufacturers to double new-car average fuel economy by 2025 has pushed the car industry to produce more fuel efficient cars at a faster rate. Ford’s next F-150 — the US’s largest selling vehicle — is currently being redesigned and rebuilt with an all-aluminum body, a huge helping hand to both Obama’s fuel efficiency mandate and the aluminum industry.

Two big players in the Ford’s aluminum round-up are Alcoa and Novelis, the nation’s top aluminum sheet producers. In 2013, both companies spent $1 billion in opening new aluminum sheet factories, tailored to the auto industry. Raw aluminum prices have dropped by more than a third since 2011 — Alcoa and Novelis are hoping their new investments increase their profit margins.

The aluminum industry is making a huge bet. While aluminum is lighter, and better for fuel efficiency and the economy, it might not be better for pocketbooks — aluminum costs almost three times more than steel, the traditional metal used to manufacture cars. Moreover, using aluminum to produce vehicles requires new machinery; machinery used to manufacture cars from steel isn’t compatible with aluminum.

Only Audi and Jaguar — cars that a majority of the public can’t afford — have created all-aluminum vehicles. Ford’s new endeavor will likely trim 700 pounds from the currently-5,000-pound truck; this reduction will allow for a 7% growth in the truck’s fuel economy.

The aluminum market is now only valued at almost $300 per year. If more car companies choose to manufacture all-aluminum cars, then the market can skyrocket to $7.5 billion by 2025, a huge blessing for the aluminum industry, which is undergoing oversupply and low raw aluminum price issues.

The car industry is urging every aluminum company to invest, asking different manufacturers to produce different parts so there isn’t one that could dominate pricing. There is more than enough business for everyone: one contract for a mass-produced part can be valued at more than $50 million.

The question is, will there be enough raw aluminum materials and fabrication capacities to successfully undertake this venture, even though time has come to further enhance recycling and production of recycle-friendly automotive aluminum alloys in commerce? See a publication on this subject by Dr. Das – “The Development of Recycle-Friendly Automotive Aluminum Alloys“.

See also:
A Clean Car Boom
GM Planning Strict Diet for New Pickup Trucks

Developed and Written by Dr. Subodh Das and Tara Mahadevan

January 13, 2014

Phinix LLC

Copyright 2013. All rights Reserved by Phinix, LLC.

www.phinix.net    skdas@phinix.net

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