In other words, the steel vs. aluminum debate has been going on for years when it comes to transportation, long before aluminum became a potential metal for automobiles with any production scale. However, today, the playing field on which the two compete has clearly moved to the automotive vanguard, given the massive amount of dollars on the line. Our sister site MetalMiner, is in the midst of running a series titled Car Wars, thoroughly addressing the subject. In the first article, MetalMiner suggests that "metal product substitution appears live and well within the automotive industry. One need only visit a few websites -- for example, Alcoa's -- to see how it describes the aluminum value proposition, or this slick video from Novelis on the Jaguar XJ aluminum body or the Aluminum Association's website articulating the virtues of aluminum over other materials."
But steel is not sitting still. According to MetalMiner, "it has conducted considerable product innovation to address some of the specific benefits the aluminum industry has touted." MetalMiner outlines the basic case for both types of automobile metal in their analysis, but also suggests that we should consider additional factors, such as "aluminum shortages that have already started to appear in the European automotive industry."
Moreover, there's the legislative angle as well: "Aluminum, as a global industry, has a strategic advantage over the [largely] domestic steel industry currently supporting the auto sector. Any climate change legislation would handicap the steel industry while allowing the aluminum industry to leverage global supply options not subject to such legislation."
Part One of the steel/aluminum car wars debate on MetalMiner is a fascinating read, regardless of what industry you're in (plus the Star Wars allusions are great). We'll cover further posts in the series in the coming weeks as the debate hits smelter temperature.