April 26, 2000

A Light, Bright Future

When General Motors talks, scrap recyclers tend to listen.

At the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries Inc. (ISRI) Aluminum Spotlight at the association’s Annual Convention in March, General Motors showed up in the form of Kevin Moore, secondary aluminum commodity manager with the Detroit-based automaker.

Moore, who procures aluminum scrap for several GM plants in the Great Lakes region, has a background in nonferrous scrap, and is an unabashed backer of wider aluminum use in automotive applications.

The “lightweighting” trend of automakers should keep favoring aluminum, as it has in certain automotive segments for the past decade. According to Moore, the average GM model currently contains 290 pounds of aluminum, with 76% of that weight coming in the form of castings such as wheel rims and engine and transmission castings.

That number could theoretically rise to as high as 850 pounds per vehicle, says Moore, if more stamped parts and engine parts were to convert to aluminum. He notes though, that “engineers can be somewhat resistant to convert from steel to aluminum.” Steel also retains its competitive pricing edge over aluminum for most mass-produced parts.

A forecast cited by Moore calls for 64 million cars and light trucks to be built in 2006, up from 53 million in 1999. Thus, demand for aluminum should be strong no matter how many added pounds go into each vehicle.