GM follows Ford, steps up effort to use aluminum in high-volume pickups


GM is accelerating efforts to field a largely aluminum-bodied next-generation pickup truck by late 2018, recently locking in supply contracts with Alcoa (AA) and Novelis which are now working to increase their aluminum sheet production to supply the GM pickup, WSJ reports.

The push to develop an aluminum intensive large pickup marks an apparent change of direction for GM; before Ford (F) unveiled its 2015 F-150 with a body made almost entirely of aluminum, GM execs had questioned whether such a vehicle could be cost competitive or appealing to U.S. customers.

GM is said to believe it can offset Ford's head start by using more advanced welding techniques to produce a lighter, stronger and easier to assemble truck.

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Comments (37)
  • Quoth the Raven
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    Comments (2063) | Send Message
     
    Nice day own AA and GM.
    18 Feb 2014, 07:32 PM Reply Like
  • newnnly
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    Comments (388) | Send Message
     
    LONG AA- wait till all the auto makers start using alum not only for pickups but for other makes. This could be the start of something big for AA
    18 Feb 2014, 07:46 PM Reply Like
  • Popcornkitty
    , contributor
    Comments (12) | Send Message
     
    Definitely long on AA - I prefer to buy "old school" stocks and AA definitely falls into that category. I'll bet the DOW is sorry they got rid of them last year :)
    19 Feb 2014, 11:12 PM Reply Like
  • newnnly
    , contributor
    Comments (388) | Send Message
     
    @popcornkitty-you got that right little girl
    20 Feb 2014, 06:47 PM Reply Like
  • Nitrexx11
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    Comments (146) | Send Message
     
    Can you imagine if the aluminum glut ever tightens up?
    18 Feb 2014, 08:09 PM Reply Like
  • Gumby
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    Comments (3624) | Send Message
     
    Nit yeah, if you multiply world car production of around 60 million or so annually at around 350 pounds per vehicle, you get ... around 20 billion pounds or ten million tons of aluminum already called for. If you double the aluminum content in each vehicle, we will need another ten million tons of aluminum or one quarter of world's production, roughly . An average vehicle weight one and half ton right now , but I suppose that it will come down to a ton or so if aluminum is more extensively used than just doubled up in five years or so. We will still have to find another thousand pounds of aluminum while there will still be a few hundred pound of non aluminum materials in each vehicle like plastic and steel and rubber in every vehicle. The world output of steel is about 5 to ten billion TONS annually against only 40-50 million tons for aluminum. There is so much growth for aluminum if people start looking at aluminum to make things that we used to rely on steel or even plastic. I predict that we will do 200 million tons of aluminum annually in 20-25 years up 400% from this year production. China certainly will hit the ceiling somewhere in next few years. Bauxite mining is virtually limitless as bauxite is plentiful. It is just a matter of finding enough electricity to make new aluminum at smelting plants. Can we do it with clean energy or what? at what price? Copper is only twenty million tons a year or more this year. Copper is rather limited in availability , so aluminum will take over the traditional copper in the future like wiring, plumbing, etc. In fact , you don't really need solid copper to make wiring as electricity flow mostly on the outside surface of the wiring. It is possible that wire manufacturers will plate aluminum core wire with copper for the purpose of conductivity like what we are doing with our pennies which is zinc coated with copper starting back in 1980. Before that, pennies were solid copper now not anymore. We have copper coated zinc pennies now. It is interesting that we are still unable to expand copper production as greatly as aluminum because of limited availability. Aluminum will be the great metal of this century or first quarter of this century. I wont be surprised to see aluminum being eclipsed by composite materials later on. Composite materials is still in limited supplies and it is still too expensive to produce. Aluminum glut will eventually tighten up sooner than suggested otherwise. Those huge inventories we keep hearing about wont last long. it is actually equivalent to only a few months of world production not years... Inventories can suddenly plummet so suddenly without fair warning! This was how copper, molybdenum, nickel, silver, tin, etc suddenly zoomed in price literally overnight! Aluminum will be no exception but we would be loathe to see it happen as you should well know that we really enjoy the ludicrously low prices we still pay for aluminum!
    19 Feb 2014, 12:16 AM Reply Like
  • Tdot
    , contributor
    Comments (8938) | Send Message
     
    Gum - Remember that the majority of aluminum, especially that which would be used in vehicle bodies, is easily recovered and recycled - it is a big business. Thus once it is put into a truck body, it does not vanish into nothingness and require mining more to replace it endlessly. When the truck retires it is recycled. This is a big deal with automakers these days - part of the green initiative is to maximize use of renewable and recyclable materials. And that aluminum is up there among the most common and readily available materials (elements) on the planet, partly because of recycle ability, but also because of location on the Table of Elements. Yes perhaps more will have to be mined to increase the global inventory, but again it is cheap and easy to find and produce.
    19 Feb 2014, 05:36 AM Reply Like
  • ReynoldsCC
    , contributor
    Comments (130) | Send Message
     
    Gumby, re: "....you don't really need solid copper to make wiring as electricity flows mostly on the outside surface of the wiring." This is a misunderstanding that many have. This is true only of high frequency AC electric current used at radio frequencies and above. DC and lower frequencies like the 60Hz AC used for utility supply do use the full cross sectional area of the wire to conduct the current. Aluminum is a very good conductor compared with most metals, but only half that of copper, and the corrosion (oxidation) that occurs where they make contact in air or water is the big problem.
    The increased demand for copper in hybrid and electric cars should be made up by the increased use of plastic piping for home building. My new house here in Fla has all plastic plumbing. Copper may never go back to the 80c/lb that it was 20 years ago. But current prices are artificially high IMHO.
    19 Feb 2014, 11:40 AM Reply Like
  • Philip Marlowe
    , contributor
    Comments (1582) | Send Message
     
    SHLO is a good little known small cap investment that is nicely geared to benefit from the use in aluminum in auto bodies. They will also benefit from efforts to make steel bodies lighter.
    18 Feb 2014, 09:16 PM Reply Like
  • Capt Jack Daniels
    , contributor
    Comments (1466) | Send Message
     
    Isn't there issues where aluminum meets real metals like steel ?
    18 Feb 2014, 09:30 PM Reply Like
  • Tdot
    , contributor
    Comments (8938) | Send Message
     
    Do you think this is the first time anyone has done this Jack? Do you really think Ford and GM has invented the concept of an aluminum bodied vehicle in the last 6 months?
    19 Feb 2014, 05:43 AM Reply Like
  • Starman1
    , contributor
    Comments (19) | Send Message
     
    Statistics will tell. I wont be one of them. I drive a Dodge Ram 3500 Cummins.
    18 Feb 2014, 09:46 PM Reply Like
  • Snoopy1
    , contributor
    Comments (1125) | Send Message
     
    Hard to tell what impact this will have, if any, on GM's share price as the impact won't be felt for a several years. Any thoughts?
    18 Feb 2014, 09:53 PM Reply Like
  • MisterJ
    , contributor
    Comments (1176) | Send Message
     
    Aluminum does not rust. Maybe the bodies will last longer (that is unless my son drives it and it will be trashed quite soon)....
    18 Feb 2014, 10:55 PM Reply Like
  • JohnBinTN
    , contributor
    Comments (4428) | Send Message
     
    The bodies will actually corrode faster, unless they insulate the two metals sufficiently (aluminum/steel). That may add to the price of already too-expensive vehicles.
    18 Feb 2014, 11:04 PM Reply Like
  • Tdot
    , contributor
    Comments (8938) | Send Message
     
    They already do this. There are lots of aluminum bodied cars on the road and they are not rusting or corroding away. Did you know some of Ford's trucks and some cars already have aluminum hoods and trunks to reduce weight? Go around with a magnet. You might be surprised what you find.
    19 Feb 2014, 06:09 AM Reply Like
  • JohnBinTN
    , contributor
    Comments (4428) | Send Message
     
    Maybe that's why you just about need to take out a 30-year mortgage to buy a new truck nowadays.
    19 Feb 2014, 08:02 AM Reply Like
  • Capt Jack Daniels
    , contributor
    Comments (1466) | Send Message
     
    Finally JohnBin understands that yes if you mix and touch alum & steel ~ they will corrode one another in a battery acid way where the two combine.

     

    You need to insulate and separate the two otherwise you are left with a flaking egg shell.

     

    Alum does rust.
    19 Feb 2014, 09:41 AM Reply Like
  • Tdot
    , contributor
    Comments (8938) | Send Message
     
    One does remember when $50k bought a very nice modern house and a decent sized yard with a pool for raising a family.
    19 Feb 2014, 01:51 PM Reply Like
  • billknowsall
    , contributor
    Comments (292) | Send Message
     
    I own an 03 impala that has had to have upper and lower engine gaskets (dexcool sucks!) replaced twice, rear defogger unfixable without replacing the rear window glass, passenger window motor failure, air conditioner system rebuilt, transmission rebuilt and front heating/ac controls fried by water drippage. I also owned two consecutive olds cutlasses that both blew engine coolant gaskets when they were less than 3 years old. For me, GM has a crappy engineering/manufacturing record. There is NO WAY I would risk money on an all new design. I'm sure plenty of others out there feel the same.
    18 Feb 2014, 11:12 PM Reply Like
  • bd4uandu
    , contributor
    Comments (2074) | Send Message
     
    I don't think they are using straight aluminum but alloys. Is there a play maybe in the metals being used for the alloys being used? Maybe lithium?

     

    http://bit.ly/18I3y1n
    19 Feb 2014, 05:35 AM Reply Like
  • lemm
    , contributor
    Comments (1199) | Send Message
     
    Gumby,I don't think they can coat aluminum wire with copper they start to degrade quickly when touching.For instance you have to use a special connector to connect them that doesn't allow them to touch each other or a chemical that you brush on,but the connector works best.For a while back in the 60's and 70's they used aluminum wire in houses but soon banned it from residential buildings.Now they only use it in larger applications such as service entrance cables and larger power lines.If you just nick a #14 or #12 aluminum wire while stripping it,it will break sooner or later.Yes bd4uandy Ford said it was an alloy,straight aluminum reacts badly with salt.
    19 Feb 2014, 07:21 AM Reply Like
  • bd4uandu
    , contributor
    Comments (2074) | Send Message
     
    Lemm, Do you know what alloy they were going to use?
    19 Feb 2014, 09:05 AM Reply Like
  • bd4uandu
    , contributor
    Comments (2074) | Send Message
     
    What I am finding is it's the same as used on the humvee ... military grade. 7085? Made by Alcoa.
    http://bit.ly/1cpWXrS
    19 Feb 2014, 09:32 AM Reply Like
  • lemm
    , contributor
    Comments (1199) | Send Message
     
    No,bd4uandu,I read an article where I think that Ford said what it was,but can't remember what it was.Tdot would probably know.
    19 Feb 2014, 09:34 AM Reply Like
  • bd4uandu
    , contributor
    Comments (2074) | Send Message
     
    http://ford.to/1jcafKG
    19 Feb 2014, 10:52 AM Reply Like
  • lemm
    , contributor
    Comments (1199) | Send Message
     
    I looked at your links but didn't see what metals were in the alloy,but when they say military grade that sounds expensive.
    19 Feb 2014, 02:06 PM Reply Like
  • Tdot
    , contributor
    Comments (8938) | Send Message
     
    The beauty is that the Automakers can pit the Steel industry against the Aluminum industry and get the best bulk prices for both, while the Defense Department will spend $2000 on a calibrated, certified, and meticulously packaged and shipped hammer, which was manufactured in a Clean Room to .00001 mm tolerances.

     

    The fact that they are using an existing "military grade" alloy saves a LOT of fixed development cost and overhead - it is just unit variable "lather, rinse, repeat" costs after that first billion-dollar batch.
    19 Feb 2014, 02:26 PM Reply Like
  • bd4uandu
    , contributor
    Comments (2074) | Send Message
     
    Another SA member posted this ...http://bit.ly/1jcMySo
    19 Feb 2014, 02:38 PM Reply Like
  • acesfull
    , contributor
    Comments (446) | Send Message
     
    But why isn't anyone curious about the price of the new all aluminum Ford truck? I'm talking about the price to the consumer. Is it going to raise the price $3M? Maybe $5M or even $10M? I don't have that kind of money to throw around just to get better mileage. And I still don't see how reducing the weight of a vehicle around 750 lbs is going to give it better pulling power, not to mention traction. What about repair bills? Aluminum is less forgiving than steel. That means more replacement parts. How's the insurance companies going to like that? Charge more for insurance? They surely won't be charging less. Also, the lighter the vehicle, the less safe it is. I'm not convinced Ford has a winner with this move, and the current F-150 is their bread and butter vehicle. If the price gets jacked up, Ford may be handing a gift to GM. If I were part of GM management, I would not jump too quickly into the aluminum craze. Watch and wait. Ford may end up with a bummer.
    19 Feb 2014, 07:29 AM Reply Like
  • Wise Timmy
    , contributor
    Comments (298) | Send Message
     
    Good move by GM. The higher cost of Aluminum is more than made up by the reduced mass. Especially with aluminum trading at such low prices. If GM can find additional savings in reducing the tooling costs these vehicles should not cost any more to build than the all steel models. And even if they do cost slightly more, the fuel savings will offset the increase in price. I'm long AA--Just wish I had bought more when it trading under 8.
    19 Feb 2014, 09:21 AM Reply Like
  • Capt Jack Daniels
    , contributor
    Comments (1466) | Send Message
     
    Personally I would rather have the cars of old with those heavy bumpers and sturdy frames. Not the junk most manufacturers are forced to make.
    19 Feb 2014, 09:43 AM Reply Like
  • xracer43
    , contributor
    Comments (2) | Send Message
     
    We have an 04 Lincoln LS which has many aluminum parts - front cross member, A arms, suspension braces, etc. I watch and have not noticed any electrolysis between the steel and aluminum parts. The aluminum is an alloy and the steel is coated which may prevent electrolysis. At any rate, I would imagine that Ford knows what it is doing. Especially with Mullaly still at the helm. He came from Boeing which makes aluminum airplanes. Also, Alcoa has been heavily involved in this venture. The EPA has made it really expensive to produce steel which helps in the cost of aluminum. Aluminum requires a lot of electricity to produce but, if again we can get the government out of the way, we could build some really clean, efficient nuclear power plants to produce the power for making aluminum. About aluminum used for house wiring, it's okay as long as the proper connectors are used. The problem came from the soft aluminum wire expanding when it heated up and then contracting when it cooled making the screw terminals loose. This was a severe fire hazard. Special spring loaded terminals or other methods of connecting must be used to keep the connections tight. Another problem was that aluminum wire must be sized larger than copper for the same current capacity. It just wasn't worth the trouble. Back to cars, real Shelby Cobras have aluminum bodies with steel frames. The aluminum doesn't dent at all unless you hit something. Some of us have learned to drive without hitting things.
    19 Feb 2014, 01:11 PM Reply Like
  • lemm
    , contributor
    Comments (1199) | Send Message
     
    I think it is now illegal to use aluminum wire in houses.
    19 Feb 2014, 01:34 PM Reply Like
  • Popcornkitty
    , contributor
    Comments (12) | Send Message
     
    From what I have read, aluminum wiring is safe if it is installed properly, but it is no longer the choice of most electrical contractors when wiring new (or renovated) homes. The key words are "if it the wiring is installed (and maintained) properly." That can be a big deal if your home is "older" (e.g. 1960's - 1970's, when aluminum wiring was the mainstay of electrical contractors) and/or has "situations" involving any individual electrical outlets that no longer work. However, there are many other fine products that use aluminum in their manufacturing process. I'm still long on AA and will stay tuned to see what happens next - thanks to everyone who has posted so far :) Fellow posters "xracer" and others have great comments - and I will stay tuned to see what happens with Alcoa.
    20 Feb 2014, 07:24 PM Reply Like
  • Tdot
    , contributor
    Comments (8938) | Send Message
     
    Did you read this? http://nyti.ms/1oYtCdz
    20 Feb 2014, 09:43 PM Reply Like
  • newnnly
    , contributor
    Comments (388) | Send Message
     
    As I said, "This could be the start of something big for AA." AA up 3.16% on this news and that's on a down day. I think the folks who see this and buy in now will be rewarded down the road. Remember AA was trading at over 40 a share just before the " Great Recession". I see a lot of investors viewing this new catalyst, combined with what has been a beaten down bellwether that has not participated in the Markets' bull run as a good early entry on a new long term positive. At least I do. Good luck to everyone. LONG AA
    19 Feb 2014, 06:28 PM Reply Like
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