There's a logical progression of technology in the auto industry. We've seen it with things like carbon-ceramic brakes, which use to be the sole domain of six-figure sports cars, where they often cost as much as an entry level Toyota Corolla. Now, you can get them on a BMW M3 (they're still pricey, at $8,150). Who knows, maybe in the next four a five years, they'll be available on something like a muscle car or hot hatchback. Aluminum has had a similar progression, although it's further along, moving from the realm of Audi and Jaguar luxury sedans to Ford's most important product, the F-150.

With the stuff set to arrive in such a big way on the market, we should logically expect an all-aluminum Toyota Camry or Honda Accord soon, right? Um, wrong. Reuters has a great report on what's keeping Asian manufacturers away from aluminum, and it demonstrates yet another stark philosophical difference between automakers in the east and those in the west.

Of course, there's a pricing argument at play. But it's more than just the cost of aluminum sheet (shown above) versus steel. Manufacturing an aluminum car requires extensive retooling of existing factories, not to mention new relationships with suppliers and other logistical and financial nightmares. Factor that in with what Reuters calls Asian automaker's preference towards "evolutionary upgrades," and the case for an all-aluminum Accord is a difficult one.

Instead, manufacturers in the east are focusing on developing even stronger steel as a means of trimming fat, although analysts question how long that practice can continue.

Jeff Wang, the automotive sales director for aluminum supplier Novelis, predicts that we'll see a bump in aluminum usage from Japanese and Korean brands in the next two to three years, and that it will be driven by an influx of aluminum-based vehicles from western automakers into China. Only time will tell if he's proven right.


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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 62 Comments
      Rob Gomes
      • 6 Months Ago
      The issue with carbon ceramic brake pricing isn't the cost of the option, it's the cost of replacement. For example, it's $7400 to tick the option box on a Porsche Boxster/Cayman. The real issue however is the ~$15,000 servicing cost when those rotors need to be replaced. Most of the guys who track their Porsche? Steel brakes. It's cheaper and 98% as effective. Some might upgrade their brake cooling ducts, but a decade-plus of guys switching back from PCCB to the "Big Red" steels is telling.
        edward.stallings
        • 6 Months Ago
        @Rob Gomes
        Playing fast and loose with numbers I think. "98% as effective", "$15,000 servicing cost" - on a $7400 option? LeMans LMPC cars (a spec class) went with carbon ceramic over iron (They don't use steel for rotors) because over the course of a season it was estimated to be cheaper than iron due to long rotor life. The savings in unsprung rotating weight is a significant plus for handling, braking, acceleration and ride.
      Muttons
      • 6 Months Ago
      When it comes to CC brakes, it's really a huge headache for manufacturers who make them an option only to have the customers who get them complain endlessly about how much noise they make. CC brakes are meant for serious track use and aggressive application. If you are only driving your car around town in stop and go traffic and bought the option as a bragging point they will get glazed and start squealing and you'll be upset and think there is something wrong with your car..
      NY EVO X MR GUY
      • 6 Months Ago
      I don't blame them. They make light cars already. I mean, how much lighter can you safely go?
      Cruising
      • 6 Months Ago
      Mazda has 20 patents in a way to weld aluminum and steel together. I think the RX-8 used aluminum body panels like the hood, rear doors, trunk lid.
        bwahahahaha
        • 6 Months Ago
        @Cruising
        The MX-5 has an aluminum hood/trunk as well, and the next generation MX-5 chassis shown in New York appears to make extensive use of aluminum.
        • 6 Months Ago
        @Cruising
        [blocked]
      mary.keana
      • 6 Months Ago
      LOL, carguy1701 claims the F-150 is JUST as significant as the Original NSX.
        carguy1701
        • 6 Months Ago
        @mary.keana
        >largest application of aluminum in the industry to date >largest application of aluminum in mass market vehicles to date It isn't my fault your head is so far up your anus that you can't understand the significance of the 2015 F-150. The F-150 routinely sells on average of 500k units in any given model year. Therefore, if we assume 500k units a year, for a 6 year production run for the new gen (current truck is in its 6th and final model year), that works out to 3 MILLION TRUCKS. That's far more than the NSX, far more than the A8, and far more than any other aluminum vehicle produced to date. If that isn't significant, I don't know what is.
      mary.keana
      • 6 Months Ago
      Comparing a unibody passenger car to a body-on-frame farm implement is a stretch.
        carguy1701
        • 6 Months Ago
        @mary.keana
        The Accord and Camry are two of the best selling vehicles in their segments. The F-150 is the best selling vehicle in its segment, and the best selling vehicle in the entire country. Its a fair comparison.
          carguy1701
          • 6 Months Ago
          @carguy1701
          Because economies of scale. Ford is using it on their biggest cash cow first to amortize costs. This would be obvious if you actually understood how this industry works instead of fapping to Honda products.
          mary.keana
          • 6 Months Ago
          @carguy1701
          But Not fare to ask the question why not the FUSION? Do break down the cost benefits and other details for us.
          mary.keana
          • 6 Months Ago
          @carguy1701
          fair
        mary.keana
        • 6 Months Ago
        @mary.keana
        Call us when Ford starts making an all-aluminum Fusion.
        AcidTonic
        • 6 Months Ago
        @mary.keana
        Especially when Mitsubishi produces a unibody passenger car that uses aluminum for the roof, front clip, doors, suspension, and engine. Even worse when that car has existed for over 10 years.
          Matt
          • 6 Months Ago
          @AcidTonic
          That's for one low volume trim of a slow selling vehicle, not their bread and butter cash cow. In 2013, Mitsubishi sold 19,451 Lancers with ~2000 of them being your aluminum-roofed Evos, in that same year Ford sold 763,402 F-150s. Yea they used aluminum parts first but in low volume performance cars not their mass market vehicles. So the use of aluminum is nothing new or worth writing home about but using it on your best selling vehicle? For the entire car and not just certain areas? Figuring out how to retool an assembly line as opposed to doing it by hand or with one or two specialized robots? Scaling up to meet that sort of volume? That's what this article was getting at, the Asian manufacturers were hesitant to go all the way with it like Ford has when they have been set up for it all this time.
          foamypirate
          • 6 Months Ago
          @AcidTonic
          Matt, one correction (though minor). Ford sold 763,402 F-series trucks, not F-150s. That doesn't take away from your point however, just one of those little details that bugs me now and then. =D
      mary.keana
      • 6 Months Ago
      So Honda designed and built an ALL ALUMINUM car back in the late 1980s...Ford says they are "going" to build a truck using some aluminum, and Brandon . . .
        carguy1701
        • 6 Months Ago
        @mary.keana
        Honda built around 18k NSXs over its 15 year run. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Honda_NSX#The_end_of_the_NSX The F-150 routinely sells almost 30 times that number in a single given model year. One could argue the 2015 F-150 is just as significant as the orginal NSX.
          mary.keana
          • 6 Months Ago
          @carguy1701
          LOL, so selling "more" makes the F-150 just as significant as the original NSX. I'll be waiting for you to explain that one.
        merlot066
        • 6 Months Ago
        @mary.keana
        Ford is going to build one of the best selling vehicles in the world out of aluminum. Ford has also had full aluminum-bodied, functional concept vehicles dating back to the early 90s an has used aluminum and magnesium in production vehicles for years.
      • 6 Months Ago
      [blocked]
      Brodz
      • 6 Months Ago
      Why you no use Aruminium?
      AcidTonic
      • 6 Months Ago
      Mitsubishi uses Aluminum roofs on the Evo and has for over 10 years. Aluminum doors, aluminum suspension, aluminum front clip...... I can pop the hood and start checking around with a magnet and it won't stick to any part of the frame until I get past the front tires. I believe they would be an Asian Manufacturer...... Ford puts aluminum in one truck and suddenly the past 10 years of Mitsubishi's aluminum use is now ignored.
        mary.keana
        • 6 Months Ago
        @AcidTonic
        And don't forget the all aluminum NSX
          carguy1701
          • 6 Months Ago
          @mary.keana
          I have no bloody idea why my post was deleted. So I'll say it again. They only sold 18k over 15 years. The F-150 sells nearly 30 times that number in any single given model year, and want will be the largest use of aluminum in this industry to date. It rally isn't that hard to understand its significance. But hey, don;t let facts get in the way of you being a complete ******.
          mary.keana
          • 6 Months Ago
          @mary.keana
          Thank God Autoblog is finally deleting some of carguy1701's post.
          carguy1701
          • 6 Months Ago
          @mary.keana
          And...? It was a very low volume car, even in its best sales years. Dumbass fanboys need to shut their damn mouths.
      Jeff
      • 6 Months Ago
      This article is a little biased and misleading. The Japanese cars, particularly Honda, have always had larger volumes of aluminum than their domestic competitors which is one big reason why they've always weighed less. Civic & Accord have both had larger percentages than the GM (i.e. Cruze) or Ford (i.e. Focus) counterparts. The difference now is Ford & GM are picking selected models and going 'all-in' with Aluminum (i.e. F-150) or dramatically increasing the % on some of their products, while the Japanese will continue to slowly increase across all.
      Fazzster
      • 6 Months Ago
      The thinner sheet metal and cheap steel stampings used on Asian cars makes them light enough already.
        normc32
        • 6 Months Ago
        @Fazzster
        ORG! You are so correct. Jap cars have everything really tinny and marginally then. When I popped the fuze on the .GF's 2012 Forester when using air pump(weak electronics that even when you use more than one power window up at a time bogs and slows as you add more load of the other windows) I notice the seat frame was toothpick thin and just how thinly constructed the whole Subaru is. It is a tin box to ridwbjn too having to crank the radio on the highway over the noise.
          GR
          • 6 Months Ago
          @normc32
          Yet miraculously, that Forester is more reliable, safer, and longer lasting than any of its competition from Europe or the US. Must be ninja magic.
          • 6 Months Ago
          @normc32
          [blocked]
        • 6 Months Ago
        @Fazzster
        [blocked]
          • 6 Months Ago
          [blocked]
        methos1999
        • 6 Months Ago
        @Fazzster
        No such thing as "light enough".
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