Aluminum doors will have gone from virtually non-existent in 2014 to 25% of the North American fleet in 2020, in just three years from now. Aluminium doors were on fewer than 5% of vehicles in 2015. In 2014, only the Tesla Model S had them. Projections are estimated that 71% of hoods would be aluminium by 2020, up from 50% in 2015 and seemingly well on track to meet an earlier projection of 80% aluminium bonnets by 2025. And if that weren’t enough to complicate auto body repair, bumper beams would grow from 33% aluminium in 2015 to 54% in 2020.
It will be imperative for a shop to have dedicated aluminium tools, space and quipment as well as aluminium-trained techs by 2020. All these will be needed if the shop wants to fix both those latest-model cars – but also to repair the smaller concentration of aluminium on the 2015 vehicles which will make up a large percentage of one’s repair orders that year. The average repairable vehicle is six to seven years old. “You need that dedicated area when you’re fixing a door ding on an aluminium panel,” Vehicle Collision Experts CEO Mark Olson said. Predicting three years into the future might seem like a stretch, but it appears to be a pretty safe bet.
Most vehicle programmes through 2020 have been finalised, or are nearing final production commitments. The 2015 to 2020 section is the result of a detailed ‘Bottom up’ model and component analysis of production vehicle materials content. “Most of the major material decisions have been made for vehicles to launch in the next four years. Those decisions reveal that advanced grades of high strength steels and aluminium will be added to achieve a mass savings from material substitution of approximately 45 kgs.”
The average 2020 vehicle will have about 211kgs of aluminium, up from 397 in 2015, and weigh 100 pounds less than the average 2015 auto. About 118 kgs will be found in teeny A and B Segment cars, while the average pickup will sport 237 kgs of aluminium. Five OEMs will post more than 272 kgs per average vehicle. 50% of total aluminium content growth over the next five years will be driven by aluminium for closures, crash management, steering knuckles and structural vacuum die cast parts.
Kaiser Aluminium engineering and technology vice president, Doug Richman, who also serves on the Aluminium Association’s Aluminium Transportation Group, estimated in 2015 that 44% of closures would be aluminium by 2025.
Bodies-in-white will nearly double in aluminium sheet, and extrusions will increase in more than bumper beams. Aluminium extrusions for crash management parts are expected to increase by nearly six pounds per vehicle, up 65%, and extruded body-in-white parts will double to 4.4 pounds by 2020. It is surprising how much aluminium is going into body components and sub-frames. It will be significantly more than expected.
Aluminium remains the fastest growing automotive material over competing materials and is entering its most unprecedented growth phase since we’ve been tracking the shifting mix of automotive materials. To further improve fuel economy, battery range, safety and overall driving performance, automakers will no longer default to a single material and instead are pursuing a multi-material design approach where the best material is chosen for the best application. This design evolution is what’s driving aluminium’s increased market penetration in the auto sector.