The auto industry's need for lighter-weight steel could help steelmaker Nucor Corp. gain business from a Japanese automaker that is currently sourcing the materials from Japan.
Nucor expects to complete two production trials this week of an advanced high-strength steel grade that it will produce for a Japanese automaker in the United States, Nucor COO John Ferriola told IndustryWeek Aug. 30.
The company expects to replace an advanced high-strength steel grade currently supplied only by a Japanese steelmaker, Ferriola says. Nucor provides the Japanese OEM with a supplier that is closer to its manufacturing operations.
"The biggest issue is there is really only one player in this market," Ferriola says. "They aren't having problems other than it is a logistical nightmare getting coils shipped from Japan to stampers in the Eastern U.S. cheaply. We can reduce the lead times, lower the freight costs and provide a more JIT (just-in-time) or lean manufacturing approach."
Automakers in the United States are seeking lighter-weight alternatives to traditional steel as the industry prepares for more stringent fuel-economy standards.
Nucor would replace a hot-roll dual-phase 590 product that is used primarily on frames, rear compartment components, steel wheels and gussets for A-pillars. Dual-phase 590 is a type of advanced high-strength steel that has high formability characteristics but is strong enough to absorb energy during a crash.
Nucor initially developed the grade currently in trial runs in 2003. Since then, it has been sitting on the shelf waiting for an appropriate application, Ferriola says.
When the trials are completed, Ferriola says he anticipates a "normal increase of volume beginning quite soon."
The product would complement the company's existing product mix using existing capital, Ferriola says.
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