The investment positions Aleris to meet anticipated significant growth in North American automotive demand as the industry pursues broader aluminium use for the production of lighter, more fuel-efficient vehicles. Aleris is currently a leading supplier to the European premium auto industry, which has led the transition to aluminium driven by tighter emissions standards.
“We have partnered with customers in the premium automotive segment from our Duffel, Belgium facility for years to develop and produce some of the most technically advanced lightweight aluminium solutions available today,” Steve Demetriou, Aleris Chairman and CEO said. “We are excited to bring these capabilities to our Lewisport, Kentucky facility to serve automotive customers in North America as they shift toward significantly greater aluminium use.”
The company expects to begin construction on the project this fall, with a goal of shipping automotive body sheet material to customers by early 2017. When fully operational, the new facility will allow for the production of 480 million pounds of aluminium auto body sheet annually.
The company’s investment will include the addition of heat treatment and finishing capabilities, including a new wide cold mill, two continuous annealing lines and an automotive innovation centre.
“The key to our success in Europe has been our strong partnership with customers on research and development,” Demetriou said. “We will take a similar approach with our customers in North America, ensuring they have the aluminium innovation that meets their specific needs.”
A recent study of North American light vehicle aluminium content released by Ducker Worldwide states that the use of aluminium sheet for vehicle bodies is expected to increase to 4 billion pounds by 2025, from 200 million pounds in 2012. The properties of aluminium, which include its formability, recyclability, and high strength-to-weight ratio, make it an excellent solution for automotive manufacturers as they work to produce lighter vehicles that will meet more stringent fuel emissions in the United States.
Aleris has served the automotive industry from its facility in Duffel for many years. Including Lewisport, the company has 11 rolled aluminium products facilities in North America, the majority of which serve building & construction, truck-trailer, and metal distribution customers. Upon completion of the facility’s upgrade, Lewisport will be the company’s first site in North America that is equipped with aluminium auto body sheet finishing capabilities.