BMW April 2022

Ducker Worldwide estimated that aluminium doors will have gone from virtually non-existent in 2014 to 25% of the North American fleet in 2020, just two years from now.

Aluminium doors were on fewer than 5% of vehicles in 2015. In 2014, only the Tesla Model S had them, according to Ducker.

The consulting form, whose projections seem to be held in high regard by those tracking light-weighting, also estimated 71% of bonnets (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, Ducker predicted that bumper beams would grow from 33% aluminium in 2015 to 54% in 2025.

Ducker automotive and materials director Abey Abraham, who presented the findings recently at the Centre for Automotive Research’s Management Briefing Sessions, noted then that one OEM plans to make all future bumper beams out of aluminium extrusions. (There is an intriguing possibility that it’s Honda, whose next generation Civic, Ridgeline and Odyssey all have unrepairable aluminium beams.)

It will be imperative for a shop to have dedicated aluminium tools, space and equipment as well as aluminium-trained techs by 2020. All these will be needed if the shop wants to fix both of those latest model cars, and also repair the smaller concentration of aluminium on the 2015 vehicles, which will make up a large percentage of repair oders. The average repairable vehicles is six- or 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 on June’s “Repair University Live”, echoing what OEMs have told us.

Predicting three years into the future might seem like a stretch, but Ducker appears to be making a pretty safe bet with the latest edition of its industry analyses, commissioned by the Aluminium Association. Ducker noted that the federal CAFE emissions standard that have spurred light-weighting are locked into place through to 2021, it’s only from 2022-25 that is still up in the air.

Ducker has also talked to OEMS and suppliers about what the manufacturers plan to do, and it said it used data from the Centre for Automotive Research, which has also polled OEMs about future plans. At this point, OEMs largely know what they’re going to make in 2020, as Ducker observed: “Most vehicle programmes through 2020 have been finalised, or are nearing final production commitments,” Ducker wrote in the public version of its report. “The 2015 to 2020 section is the result of a detained ‘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 aluminum will be added to achieve a mass savings from material substitution of approximately 100 pounds.”

Ducker estimated that the average 2020 vehicle will have about 466 pounds of aluminium, up from 397 in 2015, and weigh 100 pounds less than the average 2015 auto. About 262 pounds will be found in tiny A and B Segment cars while the average pickup will sport 523 pounds of aluminium. Five OEMs will post more than 600 pounds per average vehicle, Ducker calculated.

“Fifty percent of total aluminium content growth over the next five years will be driven by aluminium for closures, crash management, steering knuckles and structural vacuum diecast parts,” Ducker wrote.

An average of 61 pounds of aluminium sheet for closures was predicted for the vehicle of 2020, more than 2.5 times higher than 23 pounds in 2015 and “more growth for closures than expected,” Ducker wrote. Kaiser Aluminium engineering and technology vice president Doug Richman, who also services 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, Ducker estimated, rising from 14 pounds in 2015 to 26 pounds in 2020.

As for extrusions, Ducker predicted increases in more than bumper beams. “Aluminium extrusions for crash management parts are expected to increase by nearly six pounds per vehicle, up 65%,” the firm wrote, and extruded body-in-white parts will double to 4.4 pounds by 2020, “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,” Abraham said in a statement. “To further improve fuel economy, battery range, safety and overall driving performance, automakers 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 increased market penetration in the auto sector.”