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Lighter steel up, but more needed

LIVONIA, MI – Thanks to increased use of advanced high-strength steel, the average weight per vehicle worldwide declined by 163 pounds on 2009 models.

So concludes the American Iron & Steel Institute, which measured vehicle weights on a global basis in a report released here at AISI’s annual industry congress.

Use of advanced high-strength steel is being championed by the Institute to enable automakers to meet the new U.S. fuel economy standard of 35 miles per gallon for corporate fleets by 2020.

Ducker Worldwide, which made the latest study of light steel usage for the AISI, including vehicles made in China, estimates that weight reduction will account for at least 25 percent of the necessary improvements in fuel economy to comply with the 35 mpg average.

About 650 pounds of “mild steel, high-strength steel and iron in a light car or truck will need to be replaced by 350 pounds of ultra-light steel to meet the new goal,” says David Anderson, director of AISI’s automotive applications council.

Anderson said that “as fuel economy standards continue to rise, more automakers will look for ways to incorporate new steel material and process technologies into automobile design.”

The BMW X6 2-door coupe led 2009 models in advanced high-strength steel content, with 32 percent of its body structures and closures made of AHSS.

Other new models with above-average AHSS body content, says Anderson, include the Chevrolet Traverse SUV, Ford F-150 pickup and Chrysler Town & Country minivan.

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