Steel is just as capable of delivering the required weight savings to support new fuel efficiency legislation as other materials and is more cost effective and environmentally friendly, said Lakshmi Mittal, CEO of the world's largest steelmaker, ArcelorMittal.
Speaking at the recent Steel Success Strategies conference in New York, Mr Mittal said: “Steel can provide all the weight reduction that auto producers require to satisfy the new fuel efficiency standards: for all types of vehicle.”
He added that: “Essentially we need to deliver a 25% reduction in the weight of structural components and closures, in other words the body-in-white. Steel can already do this; and we can do it in a more cost-effective and environmentally friendly manner than any other material.”
ArcelorMittal claims that its advanced and ultra advanced high strength steels developed in recent years are up to the job and Mr Mittal said that the steel industry is in a constant state of 'technological revolution'.
“Steel’s strength has multiplied 10 times over the past 20 years from 170 to 1700 megapascals. These are phenomenal changes. And we don’t know where the limit is in terms of product development. Every day we open up new frontiers and do things which yesterday didn’t seem possible. We understand there is a challenge from other materials, but no-one should doubt that steel remains the material of choice.
“Generally speaking the auto sector operates global platforms,” Mr Mittal said. “This means they will increasingly make cars exactly the same way in China as they do in the United States. Being able to work with the same supplier in different markets is, therefore, clearly an advantage as they are guaranteed exactly the same product, produced to exactly the same quality standards.”
ArcelorMittal recently celebrated the start of production at its newest plant producing high-strength automotive steel, a joint venture with Hunan Valin Iron & Steel Co called VAMA, in China. “We are very excited about this plant,” said Mr Mittal, “because for the first time ArcelorMittal will be producing high-strength automotive steel in China, the world’s largest and fastest growing automotive market. Our customers will be global brands – such as Volkswagen, GM, Ford, PSA, Daimler-Benz, Toyota, Honda, Renault, Fiat and Nissan – as well as leading domestic manufacturers.”
Speaking about the global economy, Mr Mittal said that “the key difference between now and two years ago is that the developed markets are on a much stronger footing. 2014 is expected to be the strongest year for the OECD since 2010. This is certainly positive for ArcelorMittal as two thirds of our shipments are in the developed world.”
He called for greater investment in infrastructure, saying that 'many developing economies are held back by poor infrastructure that makes the cost of managing logistical challenges too expensive to support business investment. When interest rates are so low it makes sense to take advantage and address urgent infrastructure requirements that support growth.'