While the global economy is worried that prices are falling for numerous commodities, among metals the aluminum is climbing as a bright spot because of the carmakers’ need to develop lightweight vehicles to increase fuel –efficiency.
The copper prices have so far this year dropped 14 percent and iron has fallen 7.7 percent – while aluminum is slightly up, by 0.1 percent – an incremental, but crucial increase according to industry experts. The lightweight metal’s price also comes after a year in which it traded at the lowest level since 2009. Additionally, producers such as Alcoa Inc. and Rio Tinto Group forecast rising demand in the near future as the metal becomes increasingly important to car producers. According to Steve Hodgson, director of sales and marketing of the world’s largest producer, United Co. Rusal, the producer predicts automaking aluminum demand to soar by 65 percent to 23 million metric tons by 2020. Because unlike steel it’s hard to weld it, aluminum has been usually used by carmakers in doors and roofs, but recent breakthroughs in the technology have allowed Ford Motor – the second largest US automaker – to build its best-selling F-150 pickup truck with an aluminum body.
Alcoa Inc., the largest US producer of the lightweight metal, believes that aluminum auto sheets in North America will see demand almost quadruple to 1.78 million tons in the decade through 2025 – with most analysts and industry experts believing that Ford’s F-150 is the trigger point for aluminum to enter mass production as a viable substitute for steel.