US consumers have long-complained about petrol prices at the pump, and evidence suggests that wallet worries are driving consumers towards more fuel-efficient cars. But you might not realize how dramatic the change in attitudes has been—enough to make a big impact on aluminum producer Alcoa’s plans.
Alcoa CEO Klaus Kleinfeld says that the drive towards more fuel-efficient vehicles has dramatically increased automotive manufacturers’ demand for aluminum, which when used instead of steel can reduce a car’s weight significantly; eliminating steel almost entirely has made the new Mercedes SL-class cars around 110kg lighter. Kleinfeld predicts 11%-15% growth in aluminium used in cars in North America for 2012.
To put this shift in perspective, he presented the following slide to investors in a conference call today. In the center third, Kleinfeld shows that the percentage of customers willing to pay more for fuel efficient vehicles grew from 58% to 81% in just three years, with 37% of customers calling fuel efficiency the primary factor in their car-purchasing decision. This change in behavior has led Alcoa to believe that demand for aluminum auto bodies will increase 7.5-fold from 2011 to 2020.