Auto Makers’ Aluminum Orders Fall Short of Expectations, Says Novelis CEO – by John w. Miller (Wall Street Journal – May 19, 2016)

Most customers ‘want a range of materials’ to make vehicles lighter

Auto makers are still ordering aluminum for their cars, but not as much as hoped, the chief executive of one of the world’s top aluminum companies said in an interview.

“The market got a little bit ahead of itself,” said Steve Fisher, who last year took over as CEO of Novelis, maker of over half the world’s automotive sheet aluminum.

The announcement by Ford Motor Co. a couple of years ago that it would make its best-selling F-150 out of the metal had aluminum executives salivating and predicting an avalanche of new orders.

But as steelmakers countered with new lightweight steels and lower oil prices lessened the push for lighter cars, auto makers have been hesitant to convert more vehicles to aluminum, and the metal is still niche compared with steel. Instead, said Mr. Fisher, customers now “want a range of materials” to make their vehicles lighter.

An example of auto makers’ approach, he said, is General Motors Co.’s new Cadillac CT6. Novelis this month announced that it is a supplier for the vehicle, which is 62% aluminum, and uses “advanced joining techniques” to combine that metal with steel and other materials. That makes it 220 pounds lighter than if it used steel, says Novelis.

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