AD #1294 – Aluminum at a Tipping Point, Chinese Hedge Their Bets, Anti-Car Crowd Score Big

January 17th, 2014 at 11:58am

Runtime: 8:21

- Aluminum at a Tipping Point
- You Can Call Me Al
- Chinese Hedge Their Bets
- The Devil Made Me Do It
- Ron Dennis Comes Back
- Anti-Car Crowd Score Big
- Autoline This Week Preview

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Hello and welcome to the end of a very busy week both for the automotive industry and for Autoline.

As you know for the last two days we’ve been hosting the Autoline Supplier Symposium, and yesterday we learned a couple of interesting developments. Alcoa says that the new Ford F-150 is probably the tipping point for aluminum bodied vehicles in the auto industry. It says all kinds of automakers are now calling Alcoa because they want to build cars and trucks made out of aluminum. The F-150 has convinced those car companies that aluminum is ready for mass production.

Meanwhile Bloomberg is reporting that the price of aluminum is heading sky high for those companies that have not locked in long-term contracts and are trying to buy it on the spot market. They can expect to pay a premium of more than $300 a ton, and a ton of aluminum already costs well north of $1,700. That’s why Alcoa is warning automakers, you better get us involved early in your product planning. Alcoa says that if it’s given a three year heads-up, it can meet an automakers needs. And since it takes about three years to develop a new car, the timing should work out OK, as long as the aluminum suppliers are brought in early in the planning process.

Another interesting development we learned about at the Autoline Supplier Symposium came from the panel of Chinese suppliers we had on the program. I asked them why, if China is the biggest automotive market in the world and growing faster than anyone else, why are they so keen to set up shop in the United States. And they told me, yes, you’re right, China is the biggest and growing so fast, but “You never know.” In other words, they’re not so sure what’s going to happen in China in the years to come. So they’re hedging their bets by setting up shop in the U.S., which they see as far more stable than China. You can watch the entire Supplier Symposium on our website right now at, and there’s a lot of good information that came out of that program.

Embattled Formula One head, Bernie Eccelstone, is stepping down from his position as F1 director and the board of governors but he will retain day-to-day responsibilities. Eccelstone is stepping down because he’s going to have to stand trial over accusations of bribing a German banker to the tune of $44 million. That banker is now in jail. Eccelstone doesn’t deny giving the banker the money but he claims it was blackmail. Very interesting defense strategy. We’ll soon learn what the courts think of it.

And in other Formula One news, former McLaren chief Ron Dennis will once again run the company’s racing team. Dennis ran the team from 1982-2009. After that he led McLaren’s Automotive division. But McLaren’s F1 efforts have been disastrous ever since he stepped down.

Here’s something I’m sure the auto industry doesn’t want to see catching on. Hamburg, Germany is planning to ban all cars from its city center by 2034. Instead, residents will have to travel by public transportation, bicycle or walking. Dubbed the “Green Network” the city will create a network of paths throughout Hamburg which will cover 17,000 acres or about 40% of the city’s area. Here’s my Autoline Insight, I think this is crazy! Here we are, with zero emission autonomous cars right around the corner, that can play a pivotal role in urban mobility. I think the anti-car crowd hasn’t thought this through very thoroughly.

Coming up next, a look at Ward’s Auto’s 10 Best Engines.

For two decades WardsAuto has been choosing what its editors consider the 10 Best Engines of the year. On Autoline This Week some of the staff joined me to discuss this year’s winners and here’s a taste of what that show is all about.

(The Autoline This Week preview is only available in the video version of today’s show.)

Joining me for that show from the Wards staff are Drew Winter, Steve Finlay, Tom Murphy and Christie Schweinsberg. You’ll able to watch that entire show in its entirety later today on our website,

And that wraps up this week’s worth of reports

Thanks to our Partners for embedding Autoline Daily on their websites: Autoblog and

60 Comments to “AD #1294 – Aluminum at a Tipping Point, Chinese Hedge Their Bets, Anti-Car Crowd Score Big”

  1. Brett Says:

    Before dismissing it out of hand, perhaps we should see what the result of Hamburg’s experiment turns out to be.

    It might show a path to a better urban future or it might serve as an example of what not to do.

    I’m not prescient and, I expect, neither is anyone else here.

  2. HtG Says:

    Perhaps the burghers of Hamburg expect their burgers to be delivered by the RAF.

    Hey, come on now, it’s a joke :)

  3. Lex Says:

    I wonder if I can now get more for my empty sode can than that 5 cent deposit I paid?

  4. Lex Says:

    I can see a battle brewing between the use of aluminum and high strength steel in the next three years.

  5. Kit Gerhart Says:

    It seems that aluminum is not a huge weight saver for car bodies, based on the best existing example, the Audi A8. The A8 weighs only 200 pounds less than the BMW 750Li, and 100 pounds less than the Lexus LS460L, similar size luxury cars with bodies made mostly from steel. The A8 has AWD, which would add some weight, but the steel vs aluminum difference still doesn’t seem to be that great.

  6. ColoradoKid Says:


    It may be the first … but guaranteed .. it won’t be the last … far from it in fact [ plans is afoot ... in places you wouldn't believe if I told you ] ;-)

    IMO ? Having had a Car Free experience when living in KCMO during an Xmas [ by KCMO standards ] blizzard …. X- Country skiing thru the entire Mid/Downtown area … finally able to enjoy KC’s legendary architecture … distraction free …. and safe I might add ?

    A VERY good thing

    A damn good thing indeed

    And a heck of a lot better – viable – sustainable and long term solution for City Living than EV’s – Hybrids – Autonomous – Alternative Fuels combined etc can ever hope to be

    This one ….. Merkel got right ! Guess that X- Country skiing accident must of knocked some sense into her :o


    1- Brett – Unlike yerself …though I’m not ‘ prescient ‘ either .. I’m willing to put an opinion on the line about this one

  7. HtG Says:

    Somebody looks like they may have had a good time last night.

    It might have been me, watching the Autoline Symposium. I heard Ford’s Buczkowski use the word ‘partnership’ several times and that’s significant. The ‘partnership’ business model that’s creating myriad electronic devices and systems seeks to bring together different businesses and skill sets so that costs and profits are distributed. Partnering is what has brought us mobile computing and also Internet of Things. The model is promulgated by ARM Holdings, so hearing a Ford leader talk ‘partnership’ did perk me up. It’s a big deal.

  8. Kit Gerhart Says:

    6, +1

  9. Jon M Says:

    Solving range anxiety as they call it is perhaps as much as a lifetime away. Run out of gas/fuel in a conventional engine and a phone call or a stroll to the nearest gas station easily and often quickly solves the issue. Not so, of course, with an EV. Not today anyway.

    As for the anti-car crowd, I don’t think they haven’t thought things through very thoroughly. I don’t think they want to think it through at all. Doing so would do nothing for their cause.

  10. ColoradoKid Says:

    5 – Yup !

    Not to mention the excessively high cost of repairing damaged aluminum body work [ just ask any Range Rover owner ]

    IMO this Al revolution is all about media attention – hype and marketing …

    And nothing else …

    Well … that …. and then there is the factor of who’s heavily invested in Al and stands to profit from it should this trend take off ;-)

  11. ColoradoKid Says:

    7 – ” Partnership … a word who’s meaning in the automotive industry especially … is rapidly morphing into ;

    ” We cant do it ourselves .. probably shouldn’t be doing it at all .. so we’ll team up with someone else in the futile hope that this one … like every one we’ve been involved with in the past .. won’t blow up in our faces as well ”

    IMO ? A very bad thing … if history is to teach us anything

  12. HtG Says:

    Anybody know if Martin Whitmarsh is going to bail out over water or land? Perhaps run for public office?

  13. HtG Says:

    11 partnership

    There is no other way to develop hardware and software because it’s too expensive. One company can no longer set the course for the computer industry, and it’s certainly too much for a car company. Seen how Intel just had to turn Fab 42 into 24/7 allergy relief center?

  14. ColoradoKid Says:

    Jon M – 9

    You said ;

    “As for the anti-car crowd, I don’t think they haven’t thought things through very thoroughly. I don’t think they want to think it through at all. Doing so would do nothing for their cause ”

    An interesting over generalization … wrong mind you … but interesting never the less … in light of the fact that by all rights KG and I are the very antithesis of the ” Anti Car Crowd ”

    For me …. I’m not Anti Car … just Anti Car in our rapidly overcrowded and overcome with pollution … both noise , air and ground … cities

  15. ColoradoKid Says:

    12 As of this moment … looks like MW’s taking his ‘ Golden Parachute ‘ and heading for more peaceful ground

    As to the ‘ partnership ‘ discussion … name one recently that hasn’t ended up in tears .. or is on the verge of doing so ;-)

  16. ColoradoKid Says:

    ….. and … one more time … in honor of Mr Ecclestone’s less than honorable departure ;

    ” Ding dong … the witch is dead … the witch is dead .. Ding dong the wicked witch is dead ”

    Not that I really think it’ll make much difference mind you … but it sure feels good despite it all

  17. HtG Says:

    15 ck, ‘partnership’ as I’m using the term is an industry buzzword from the tech industry. It refers to the way new devices are developed, by having architecture designers like ARM, work with whole system on chip designers LIKE APPLE work with foundries like TSMC or Samsung (and increasingly Intel)that produce the physical chips, for which app developers write code, all of which ends up in your pocket or dashboard. Every link in the chain adds value and makes profits, hopefully. The partnership model has transformed the world in the last decade, so for Buzckowski to refer to it is evidence of how cars are increasingly becoming a part of the new information landscape. Customers demand it.

  18. HtG Says:


    Guilty, but boy do I want to see him beat this. Just a big middle finger.

  19. MJB Says:


    How much you wanna bet that AAA isn’t already thinking of ways to provide stranded electric car owners the electric charge equivalent of a few gallons of gas via their AAA Plus roadside assistance service? That might go a long way in calming at least some consumers’ range anxiety fears.

    Heck, for that matter, perhaps some enterprising entrepreneur will develop a portable device that carries a charge good for X miles (equivalent to carting around a gallon of gas) that can be kept in one’s trunk for such emergencies…

  20. Chuck Grenci Says:

    That idyllic picture of Hamburg, sans the thoroughfare (replaced by parks) may be a bit optimistic. The story still mentions public transportation; does that include taxis, and how about emergency vehicles, then there’s trucks for delivering product, moving vans, garbage haulers etc., etc. Got to go with John Mc on this one. Let’s not throw the baby out with the bath water. Hamburg’s idea may be noble in thought but surely hasn’t been thought completely through.

  21. HtG Says:

    A little NAIAS humor from Skip Barber

    SB made a short vid out of his visit to the Detroit show. He apparently hasn’t earned Autoline’s red carpet treatment,…yet

  22. G.A.Branigan Says:

    @ HtG: Gee,it seems no one was aware of who is.

  23. G.A.Branigan Says:

    my kingdom for an edit button.that should have read ‘of who he is’….duh.

  24. HtG Says:

    A horse, a horse

    “Which theatre are you with? ” -Joseph K

    Not car related, obv

  25. G.A.Branigan Says:

    @ TB: Given all the hoopla over fords aluminum weight reduction program,whatever happened to GM’s nanosteel thing?

  26. pedro fernandez Says:

    Does this mean that the cost of making aluminum foil is gonna go thru the roof as well? I guess is back to plastic wrap for us folks.

  27. HtG Says:

    26 I’ve started hoarding now, before the little people catch on.

  28. G.A.Branigan Says:

    The problem with wide spread use of aluminum in pickup trucks is the costly repairs to even simple dents,or the more common creases done to fenders and rear quarters etc.With steel,the metal can be shrunk while doing the repairs.I’m not sure if aluminum can be shrunk etc.

  29. pedro fernandez Says:

    G.A no problemo, just fill it in with some Reynolds wrap and a blowtorch.

  30. XA351GT Says:

    Wow, I am so shocked that Christy liked the EV(sarcasm) . Anyone listening to her on here knows that she’s a tree hugger. More than range anxiety they need to get the price down to where everyone could afford one if they wanted one. 10-15K over a similar ICE car isn’t going to get to many people to even test drive them. The other thing is what does heat or A/C do to the battery charge. So much of cars are electrified that you have to worry about what all those items are doing to the overall range.

  31. cwolf Says:

    Even if the demand for Al increases, I believe the industry has a way to go to maximize capacity. I also think damages will be replaced,rather than repaired in the immediate future,at least by Ford.

    Closing traffic in Hamburg is a splendid idea and will prolly be good for tourism. Gee, no tickets for jay walking and those having one too many won’t get hit when falling off the curb!

  32. Kit Gerhart Says:

    I’m going to start saving my beer cans, rather than recycling them. They will be worth a lot of money in a few years.

  33. T. Bejma Says:


    It is used in the ATS and CTS structure to reduce weight and has been very successful. Like Aluminum, it is expensive and not yet mainstream.


    I only hope I can still ride a bicycle in 2034 when I am 90 years old!!

  35. Chuck Grenci Says:

    This, going back a couple of days when we were discussing the awesome Porsche (heritage) video; here’s one for Cadillac’s introduction of the new ATS Coupe (and new emblem). Pretty well done in my opinion.

  36. ColoradoKid Says:

    Finally !!!

    A good use for the TESLA S

    Figures it’d take Bob Lutz to suss this one out .

    The question the article asks about who’d do this ? That one I can answer . The person who purchased a TESLA S but has been massively disappointed/disgusted with its EV performance .. not to mention self igniting tendencies ….. but likes the style and the [Fisker/ BMW Z8 ] ride . Of which … there are many .,, seeing as how TESLA S used sales are exceeding the new

    Yup … recycling the TESLA S into something functioning and useful …. me likes ;-)

  37. ColoradoKid Says:

    34 – If Sir Alex Moulton could … you certainly can as well

    As Alex said so often at his Moulton Owners meets

    ” I may pedal a little slower … and a little shorted distances … but I’m still pedaling “

  38. ColoradoKid Says:

    35 – Nice video … too bad the car doesn’t live up to it … in any way shape or form ;-)

  39. Kit Gerhart Says:

    Will the engine be transversely mounted int he rear, like with electric motors?

  40. T. Bejma Says:


    Great video!!! I think even PDL will like that one. Love the new emblem.

    This car is on the shortlist for me. Would love to have an ATS Coupe for daily driver and the 2015 Canyon for weekends. Here’s hoping my bonus is nice this year ;-)

  41. C-Tech Says:

    I am frequenly looking at the cars and trucks that have been built and used by the general public, I found this story interesting.

  42. C-Tech Says:

    The aluminium body on the F-150 we will see if it too shall pass like plastic fenders and doors. The shutters on the wheels, wouldn’t it be easier to put MOON hubcaps (Bonneville Salt Flats style) on the wheels?

  43. C-Tech Says:

    If more makes fall in line with Ford will the price of beer and pop (soda) go up?

  44. pedro fernandez Says:

    #41 C-Tech no surprises there as far as I’m concerned Did not know that Mazda engines were so much trouble, you never hear that whenever they name the Mazda 3 best in class!

  45. HtG Says:

    whoawhoawhoa!!!Pedro!!! Miata engines are bulletproof.(unless you’ve got an early short nose example)

  46. Kit Gerhart Says:

    The surprise to me, was that the New Beetle was #10, rather than #1. Also, I was surprised to see all of those Mazdas.

    The problems with MINI seem to be model and equipment specific. The manual transmission in ’07 and later MINI’s should be reliable, because it is the same generally reliable Getrag 6-speed used in a bunch of other cars.

  47. pedro fernandez Says:

    Anyone has any data on these ZF transmissions that seem to be all the rage in new cars from Chrysler and Daimler? they’re so revolutionary, shift so well and make humdrum Chrysler cars so much better than when they had the Chrysler built and engineered slush boxes. Htg, I’m not surprised by the high compression new Mazda engines giving problems, you can’t change the laws of physics!

  48. cwolf Says:

    C-tech , if I purchase fully loaded struts for the front of my 2010Milan, is it engineered so alignment isn’t necessary?

    Those who really know their Mazdas understood from the start to avoid the CX-7. The others have fared well, like my sons 2.0l. 3 and my bro.-in-law’s CX-9. the up coming Miata should get a lot of attention.

  49. cwolf Says:

    Pedro, the CX-7 trouble concerned the timing belt ,thus causing engine damage. The 626 was vacuum related. Rusting and a few other things were faulty as well, per reports.

  50. HtG Says:

    Do you know something about the next Miata, cwolf, buddy? ;) *

    *if you’ve had a couple, please demur

  51. cwolf Says:

    The 2015 Miata has a longer front end and axles pushed forward. This should please those with over hang fetishes. No turbo and 2200 lb wt.,as stated,will become true,but only 200lb heavier with a 2.0 or a 2.5l. Not a screamer , but still more spunky than before. If I had not chose to restore the MGC, the Miata would have been my toy and prolly less money! No sauce today. Two is the limit after work. Ya know, I sign books at the Eagles 3 times a week and don’t drink…..not for the past 21 years! Drink and drive is not for me.

  52. cwolf Says:

    Miata cont.
    As I recall,it comes with a 6- speed manual or…,ugh,a 6-speed automatic. Not much else is known.

  53. HtG Says:

    mmmmm.2200lb is the original weight for Miata. If you push forward the axles you’ll get good balance. Put in 150hp and that’s something. If they go even further on weight or power, the old rust buckets in California may hit the market.

  54. Kit Gerhart Says:

    Some of the comments are interesting. One makes me afraid to keep my MINI another day. No, not really. Given the number of miles I drive it, I’m not worried, but I probably wouldn’t recommend a MINI for you, Pedro. It’s not a car I’d count on to be trouble free for 300K miles.

  55. cwolf Says:

    I hear ya, but don’t forget about the J-2000. I read the idea of a re-intro or a clone coming in the future…still only someone’s thought,but a good one. I like most any roadster and don’t need to go fast to have fun.

  56. RonE Says:

    The Mazda 2.0 is a fine engine. I drove one for 10 years and the only issue I had was the check engine light came on when it was new. The dealer took care of it. My son is now driving it most every day. The car is almost 13 years old and still runs like a Swiss watch. Bulletproof, IMO.

  57. pedro fernandez Says:

    In all fairness Kit, I don’t think that there are many cars that are up to that task except Crown Vics and certain pickups.

  58. Kit Gerhart Says:

    Any car will need some repairs along the way to 300K miles, but a Crown Vic, or older, simpler pickup, would be easier to keep going.

  59. pedro fernandez Says:

    Most complains I get from owners is that they fix one problem and then soon something else breaks and so forth, I don’t seem to have that problem, when something breaks, gets fixed and then no issues for a long while, unless they put in Chinese parts, than it’s a repeat repair.

  60. Kit Gerhart Says:

    I experienced something similar to your Chinese parts with “rebuilt” starters on my parents’ 1977 Plymouth Volare. The original starter lasted about 100K miles. The first three “rebuilt” ones either didn’t work at all, or lasted only a few days. Conveniently, it only took about 10 minutes to change one on the slant six.