As North American automakers put their vehicles on a weight-loss plan, they are turning increasingly to a new generation of advanced high-strength steel.
The average vehicle built in North America contains 151 pounds of advanced high-strength steel, up from 111 pounds in 2007, according to Ducker Worldwide, a suburban Detroit consulting firm.
Dick Schultz, Ducker's managing director, predicts automakers will increase use of advanced steel 10 to 15 percent annually over the next five years or so. The stronger varieties of steel let automakers use lighter structural parts.
What's the practical limit? Schultz expects use will reach about 450 pounds per vehicle. That would be more than half the weight of a typical vehicle's body, bumper and doors.
Honda Motor Co. and BMW AG are considered industry leaders in the use of advanced steel. But Schultz says all the automakers are making more use of it. "It's fair to say there were early adopters," Schultz said. "But everybody is catching up."