Alcan – Algroup to Provide Global Leadership Position

Achieving aluminum’s full potential in the auto industry will require aluminum companies to rethink the way they serve their customers,” stated Alcan’s Donald Macmillan in his address to the Metal Bulletin International Automotive Materials Conference here today. “The winners will be the companies which can excel in the art of partnership,” he said.

The president of Alcan Global Automotive Products underscored the success Alcan is having in moving beyond the traditional role of a commodity supplier to focus on partnering with auto makers to provide material solutions for their changing needs. With the completion of its merger with Zurich-based algroup later this year, Alcan will be the unquestioned global leader in automotive aluminum.

“At Alcan, we are making the transition from being just suppliers of metal to providers of solutions,” commented Macmillan. He explained that the company is emphasizing brand differentiation and relationship-building to establish Alcan as the aluminum partner of choice.

Alcan is using the term Alumineering(SM) to identify the unique combination of leadership, technology and service that customers receive with Alcan’s automotive aluminum solutions. “Bringing together Alcan’s leading automotive position in North America with algroup’s ranking position in Europe allows us to credibly deliver on this promise globally,” Macmillan added.

“Alumineering(SM) provides Alcan customers with proprietary technologies for high-volume aluminum structures and body panels that have all the strength and stiffness of steel at half the weight,” said Macmillan. “These are technologies that are adaptable and compatible with existing high-volume production methods.

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“By reducing vehicle mass without reducing size, Alumineering(SM) helps create the ‘weight space’ that enables our customers to meet their weight-reduction targets, while still delivering on consumer demands for large, safe vehicles with weight-adding options such as power seats, CD players and on-board internet services. In this way, Alcan’s Alumineering(SM) solutions deliver value far beyond any price-per-pound comparison.”

Alcan has established long-term, global metal supply arrangements and strategic partnerships with both General Motors and Ford Motor Company that Macmillan said are a “first for the aluminum industry.” On the strength of such commercial successes, Macmillan predicted that Alcan’s sales to the automotive market will grow by some 90 percent in the four-year period from 1998 to 2002. Casting alloys will continue to represent the largest portion of the market for Alcan, at 60 percent of volume, but auto body sheet will grow dramatically from 3 percent to 15 percent of the total.

Aluminum’s growing popularity with automakers and their customers is the result of a variety of factors, including:

  • Performance – Lighter, aluminum-intensive vehicles accelerate
    more quickly and handle better, and offer improved NVH (noise, vibration and harshness) characteristics.
  • Recyclability – Aluminum is 100 percent recyclable and economical to recycle. Moreover, aluminum scrap retains a high value. It is estimated that the aluminum scrap value at end of vehicle life will far exceed the 250 Euros to be levied in Europe beginning 2004 for end of vehicle life recycling and disposal.
  • Fuel Efficiency – Every 10 percent reduction in vehicle mass
    provides a six to eight percent improvement in fuel economy.
  • Reduced Emissions – Every tonne of aluminum that replaces steel in today’s vehicles eliminates 20 tonnes of greenhouse emissions over the average life of a vehicle.
  • Safety – Aluminum absorbs the same amount of crash energy as
    steel at little more than half the weight. Lighter cars also are more maneuverable and brake faster.
  • The European Aluminium Association estimates that the average vehicle content of aluminum, which stands today at about 100 kilograms, will at least double by the year 2015. Macmillan said that within the next five years he expects to see a number of mass-produced, high-volume vehicles with aluminum structures and exterior body panels on the road both in Europe and North America.

    Alcan is a multinational, market-driven, low-cost producer of aluminum products. With operations in more than 30 countries, Alcan is one of the most international aluminum companies in the world. It is a leading producer of primary metal and a global producer and marketer of rolled aluminum products.