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Report: Fuji Heavy To Stop Using Aluminum Outer Panels For New Cars

Nikkei. In light of soaring aluminum prices—which have more than doubled in four years—Fuji Heavy Industries, the manufacturer of Subaru brand automobiles, will not use aluminum exterior panels for car models that are redesigned or newly released in and after fiscal 2007.

The company will instead use less expensive but heavier zinc-coated sheet steel.

Fuji Heavy plans to redesign its more select models such as the Legacy, Forester and Impreza in and after fiscal 2007, and stop using aluminum exterior panels for them at that time, according to a report by the Nihon Keizai Shimbun.

Even if aluminum prices decline after the changes are made, the company will not return to using outer panels made of the metal because different molds are used for panels made of aluminum and steel, the sources said.

In an effort to maintain the performance of these models, the automaker will strengthen engine and other technologies that affect fuel efficiency. But in regard to drivetrain parts, such as suspensions, Fuji Heavy will continue using aluminum.

Aluminum is currently trading for around US$2,800 dollars per ton at the London Metal Exchange, more than double the roughly US$1,300 dollars it sold for in 2002.



This is one of the many reasons car makers are looking at h2. The engine and powe train weigh alot and generaly now are made from aluminum to save ALOT of weight. But the cost of the aluminum itself in a powertrain is likely well over 1000 bucks now and is only going to climb as china keeps gobbling all aluminum on the planet.


I would think that a parallel hybrid would solve the weight problem in the most effective fashion.

1. High output electric motor used for acceleration and regenerative braking. ~120 lbs
2. Small, low capacity battery pack to serve as a bank for accel/regen. ~100 lbs
3. .25-.5L diesel genset. ~150 lbs
4. Drive shafts, wiring, ~100 lbs

Altogether, ~470 lbs, compared to 500 plus for a conventional vehicle, not to mention this would be more efficient. This is all off the top of my head, and it could be WAY TOO low, but it could also be pretty close to accurate.

hampden wireless

with a .5l diesel and small battery pack you would have trouble climbing large hills unless the car was smaller then a honda fit AND made of aluminum. I do like the idea though....

Paul Dietz

as china keeps gobbling all aluminum on the planet.

Since aluminum is one of the most common elements in the earth's crust (3rd most, IIRC, after oxygen and silicon) this is a rather silly concern. There is a supply/demand imbalance right now, but that will be solved by expansion of aluminum production.


I thought Saturn made body panels from plastics. That would seem like a way to get lighter cars and dent resistance.


Porblem is chinas need for it is growing faster then anyone can build and power plants to make it. Same with alot of materials. An d aluminum is very very energy costly so the masisve need is realy wrrysome.


I am afraid Fuji made the wrong choice: excessive weight of the cars is the main reason for high consumption.

As far as hybrids are concerned, more can be done. If the electric motor take care of peak torque request, a simpler a smaller gearshift can be adopted, less speeds and no reverse. This saves weight.


Looks like an opening for carbon fibers-when they become economically competitive-, and large scale renewable energy driven metals/materials production. US, Chile, Mexico, Namibia, Mauritania, and Australia all have deserts and access to the sea. This allows for solar, wind, OTEC, wave, and other hydro energy systems. Large energy storage devices would be needed for 24/7 production.
_Mining landflls for elements might be a step to take in the future, though fast turnover and low inventory in metal rich junkyards, may be a better way to go.


They dont have a choice realy. Its aluminum or steel that about it. You will see alot more iron block engines soon and steel will creep back into alot of the other parts of the car as frankly aluminum will likely stay above 3.3 a kilo for quite some time and ikely will hit 4 or more soon.

The car makers want to swap to a new tech that takes away the need for the old bulky metalpsace frame and the engine and transmission and all the points on the frame those parts comected that had to be extra thick.

With battery or fuell cell cars they can use the so called skateboard. a 6-8inch thick ridgid structure the car body just bolts onto.


RMI.org has a good paper on carbon fiber and what it can do to make cars lighter and stronger. There is a scale factor, that once you go to a bigger engine, you need bigger suspension and so on...if they can simpify the design, that would be good.


I keep saying, Population control via war is one of the only ways we can adequately have enough resources for everyone. Or a wider gap between haves and have nots and mass die offs.

As resources are more scarce people will have to result to massive wars like people always have in the past, people are doomed to repeat history just as we have always done when resources are limited



Developed countries have very small population growth rate, and no less than 2/3 of metals we use come from scrap. Developing countries does not have these enormous reserves of scrap metals, so they have to make it almost exclusively from ores. This is one of the reasons why metal prices are running crazy after couple of years of stable economical growth in big countries like China, India, and Brazil. Second reason is that it takes 5-7 years to new mine to begin actual production. In couple of years, when more mines will come on-line, prices will stabilize, and when in couple of decades developing countries will have proper build-up of scrap, metal prices will dive back to level they were 5 years ago.

Now, this is not the case with consumable resources like oil and gas.

P Schager

The aluminum price is high because energy prices are high. Both would be stabilized markedly if Al manufacturing were developed in locations of 'stranded' renewable energy resources. Note that the infamous storage problem is pretty much moot. Would also be a step toward climate sanity of course.

A good choice would be far-offshore production using floating wind turbines like these. No submarine power cables required, no resource limits, and NIMBY-proof (the whales don't vote). The only major tech to-do is the ability to remotely operate the factory ship, so few sailors/workers are needed.

The other problem with the market may be that Al makers are reluctant to fully track the demand growth because of concern that aircraft will shift to carbon fiber, and because the overweight SUV market is overdue to roll over and die. If Al makers saw a stronger commitment to combat oil dependence and climate disruption, they would not be underinvesting because they would still see vehicle makers moving to Al and not away from it, as it saves oil. And it's recyclable embodied energy, which is better than throwaway fuel.


No the reason the aluminum makers dont wana track the market is its bloody massively expensive to do so. AND there realy isnt a point to adding factoruies in places like the us or britan whose industrial complexs are on the way out anyway and thus consumption of aluminum is too.

They all know the car makers are moving to china and mexico they justdont know when. You will know whe when the new metal plants start poppin up like vrazy.

Bill Young

Frequently, if you look at energy consumption per capita type numbers, Australia will publish 2 different numbers: With and without aluminum production. They frequently report aluminum ingot as an energy export along with coal and uranium.


There was a time in 2000/2001 when Enron and other NG brokers were gaming the electricity markets in California that aluminum producers in the Pacific Northwest that used hydropower could make more selling their electricity than making aluminum. Now that was a distorted market.


Alum and steel are easily completely recycled...that cant be said for carbon fiber, rubber, many plastics. And certainly high scrap prices will rationalize esp Als use.


Well, classic market theory says that as the price of aluminum goes up, the supply should go up and bring prices down. The fact that there are barriers to entry and it is very capital intensive never seems to enter into the "supply/demand" mantra.


Porblem with supply demand is when demand goes beyond what you can possibly supply and stays there,

In this case demand is in china but china cant built power plants and factries fast enough to meet demand. And they cant fuel the power plants. And amazing as it may seem.. china is running out of workers.


"Porblem with supply demand is when demand goes beyond what you can possibly supply and stays there,

In this case demand is in china but china cant built power plants and factries fast enough to meet demand. And they cant fuel the power plants. And amazing as it may seem.. china is running out of workers."

Uh. How can "demand" remain above what "you can possibly supply" and "stay there"?

If I want thirty pounds of ground beef for dinner every night and the supermarket can only provide me with ten, then it's pretty obvious that my new "demand" is going to be ten pounds. I can "want" thirty 'til the proverbial cows come home, but I sure as hell can't "demand" what doesn't exist.

If China's running out of workers, building materials and energy sources, then "demand" is going to have to taper off and stabilize. It's not even economics, it's the tenets of reality.


This is beyond what you want and into what you NEED. The amount of stuff people NEED is now beynd what can be made and as such some people who NEED it go without ad those that can afford to buy it get it.

In this case entire regions are slowly but steadily demetalizing as everyone steals everything they can and sells it.
You wake up and try to go to work only to find in the night someone stole the tracks and no one can afford to replace them.Or you wake up in the dark because someone finaly stole the last important chunk of coper wire and now you will not have electricity EVER again. Or your country needs250000 new cars but and trucks but has enough metal to only make 25000. 225000 families dont geta car that year. Or the localshipyard closes forever because your country cant buy metal anymore. Or now all the new cars this year are made from porrly made fiverglass because they simply ran out of metal. Or Your local car maker nw is using fiverglass and plywood and what plastic to make new cars because the foundry that suppied the aluminum and steel is selling it all to china. Or your about to make a crab catcher...order the metal rod stck and are demied. No stock.

All over the worldplaces wth lessmoney are now having to find ways to make what they need without copper or steel or aluminum or or or or...and in many cases there is no replacement.



Despite popular believes of 20-yers ago theories of “depleting Earth”, metal reserves and production capacity could supply us with virtually unlimited amount of metals. Especially considering that recycling is very profitable, and rate of metal recycling in developed countries is about 80%.

It was clearly demonstrated in more than decade of stagnant world metal prices. Now, steady and huge demand from developing economies of China, India, Brasil, etc. (without substantial domestic reserves of accumulated scrap metals) caught the metal producers with their pants down. It takes at least 7-10 years to catch-up with production. Copper, aluminum, and especially nickel are the examples. Chromium is amazingly not, but only because of huge production capacity came on line (mostly in India) before metal market explosion.

Also, some metals, like silver, zinc, palladium, uranium, etc. are extremely demand-inflexible: price of such commodities are very small fraction of price for finished products, and manufacturers can adsorb very high prices, yet production could not be ramped-up quickly enough to keep with demand. As a result, prices, speculations, and manipulations are skyrocketing (take a look what happened with silver on NYMEX last two weeks). Clear champion is rhodium, used in catalytic converters: it price skyrocketed from 300 to 5000 $ per ounce in three years.

Eventually metal producers will catch-up with growing demand.


A classic case of demand is nitrogen fertilizer. The demand was there but 20% of the facilities shut down and 1/3 were idled in the U.S. due to high natural gas prices. The demand did not downsize, they just got the fertilizer from other countries that had lower prices for natural gas.


Uj your foirgetting AGAIN that the problem with the china india materials black hole is that with them also eating all the oil and gas and coal avalable we dont just have a metal problem but an EVERYTHINGA ROBLEM.

Unless you have your own source of fuel and your willing to pay enough to keep it yours and not have it sold to china your not going to build that metal faoudry and .. funny enough a metal foundy of course needs... metal to make;/

And again the only places your likely to see new metal foundies are china and india. and shina and india are likely to consume all they make and then some for DECADES.

So you make do ir do without. In many places they are doing crash courses on just exactly what native materials they can use to replace the ones they no longer can afford to get.

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