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AUTOMOTIVE PARTS RETURNING TO STEEL

 DETROIT, March 1 /PRNewswire/ -- While plastic has been touted as the automotive material of the future, many automotive applications have returned to steel.
 A new report by the Competitive Materials Strategy Group of American Iron and Steel Institute's Automotive Applications Committee cites numerous examples where steel is not just halting competitive material advancements, but actually regaining lost applications.
 "Although there has been much fanfare over alternative materials, carmakers are quietly returning to steel as the material of choice for a variety of reasons," said Jim Cran, manager - Sales Engineering and Market Research for Stelco, Inc., and chairman of the Competitive Materials Strategy Group.
 Many of the reversals involve greater usage of bake-hardenable and high-strength steels, evidence that technological advances in steel have been noticed and appreciated by the OEMs.
 According to Cran, the list of automotive parts previously manufactured with competitive materials that have returned to steel or have remained in steel after being considered for another material includes:
 -- Roofs and hoods on 1996 and 1997 Chevrolet, Oldsmobile and Pontiac all-purpose vehicles, Minivans. (All body panels are currently plastic.)
 -- Tunnels over the driveshafts of 1996 Chevrolet Corvettes.
 -- Fuel tanks of 1995 Ford Explorers (switching from high-density polyethylene to steel tanks.)
 -- Cargo box, tailgate, fenders of 1996 Ford F-Series pickups. (Ford canceled plans to make the parts in plastic.)
 -- Fuel tanks on 1992 Chevrolet Corsica and Beretta models. (GM canceled orders to switch to plastic tanks.)
 -- Seat back frames on 1992 and 1993 Chevrolet Corvettes have switched from plastic to steel.
 -- Front fenders on 1990 Cadillac Sevilles and Fleetwoods. (Plastic front fenders were used in 1989, but replaced to steel in 1990.)
 -- Fenders on 1990-92 Ford Taurus SHO models. (Ford pushed back plans to switch to plastic fenders from 1990 to 1992, then canceled plans altogether in 1992.)
 -- Fenders on 1992-93 Jeep Grand Cherokee. (Chrysler reconsidered using plastic fenders.)
 -- Major body panels and bumpers on the 1991 Nissan Figaro. (This was supposed to be Nissan's first all-plastic car, but instead it became an all-steel car.)
 The resurging preference for steel was reflected in the University of Michigan's recent Delphi VI study. The report, based on surveys of automotive engineers and industry analysts, showed a 50-percent decrease in the amount of automotive market share that plastics were projected to gain compared to the Delphi V study of 1989. If Delphi VI projections are accurate, steel will remain the dominant material of choice because of favorable pricing, fewer processing problems and new technologies.
 Technological developments in steel have resulted in:
 -- Bake-hardenable steels that allow a 30-percent increase in strength and grater dent resistance.
 -- Tailored blanks -- sheet steels of different thicknesses laser welded together for lighter-weight parts.
 -- Economic body panels from high-strength steels reinforced with ribbing and embossing.
 Steel also offers superior crash energy management properties, low cost and total recyclability, said Cran.
 "Recyclability more and more is a major issue for automotive producers," said Cran. "Steel is magnetically separated from automotive scrap, a process that is practical and affordable, with a well-placed infrastructure across North America. Steel scrap can be made into new products that are equal in quality to original steel, and recycled steel accounts for more than one-third of the total steel used to manufacture a typical North American passenger car.
 "Continual innovations in manufacturing will allow steel to offer efficient and economic solutions to the automotive challenges of the future," said Cran.
 -0- 3/1/93
 /CONTACT: Victor Pytko or Jeff Schultz of PR Associates, Inc., 313-963-3396, for the American Iron and Steel Institute/


CO: American Iron and Steel Institute ST: Michigan IN: AUT SU:

DH -- DE042 -- 1660 03/01/93 18:00 EST
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Date:Mar 1, 1993
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