Studies Show Favored Status and Increased Use of Advanced Steels

September 1, 2018

A national study conducted by Lab42, a Chicago, IL-based market-research firm, and commissioned by the Steel Market Development Institute (SMDI), Southfield, MI, finds that Americans in the market for new vehicles consider steel as the automotive material of choice. Additionally, a second study conducted by Ducker Worldwide, with North American headquarters in Troy, MI, shows that the steel industry has made significant strides in developing advanced grades of steel and making them commercially available. Current and potential consumers view steel as critical to key vehicle attributes such as safety, strength and durability, and favor steel vehicles over brands relying on aluminum.

The Lab42 study, based on an online survey of 4361 adults, found that automakers substituting aluminum for steel face a skeptical audience when it comes to the three-quarters of respondents who consider safety the most important criteria when buying or leasing a vehicle. Majorities of respondents said they do not believe aluminum is as durable (87 percent), strong (90 percent) or safe (91 percent) as steel. More than 50 percent of all consumers perceive steel as the most important material in a vehicle’s frame or body structure.

Meanwhile, the 2018 North American Automotive Steel Content Market Study, reports an increase of advanced high-strength steel (AHSS) and ultra high-strength steel (UHSS) use in trucks and SUVs as part of an industry-wide trend projected to grow through at least the 2024 model year. By that time, says the report, UHSS use will exceed AHSS use as automakers take broad advantage of its capabilities to meet both regulatory requirements and consumer demand.

The report goes on to show that steel’s lightweighting benefits have allowed automakers to invest in safety technologies, powertrain performance, infotainment systems and other content desired by consumers while reducing overall vehicle weight. That trend continues to pay dividends for automakers balancing lightweighting with consumer preferences, with an additional 10 lb. per vehicle in steel weight savings from upgrades to AHSS/UHSS predicted by the 2020 model year.

When it comes to brand equity and consumer preference, more than half of consumers surveyed say that replacing steel with aluminum will negatively affect their opinion of an automotive brand. In total, 43 percent of those surveyed said that they are less likely to purchase or lease from an automaker replacing steel with aluminum in its vehicles.

“These findings confirm what most automakers already know, which is that consumers continue to understand and value the role steel plays in making their vehicles safe, strong, durable and fuel-efficient,” says Jody Hall, vice president, automotive market for SMDI. “This elevates opportunities for automakers to attract consumers by showing how they are setting themselves apart on key vehicle purchase decisions through innovative applications of advanced high-strength steel.”

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See also: American Iron and Steel Institute

Technologies: Materials


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