GM Hints At Aluminum Bodies During $5.4B Investment Announcement

Cameron Aubernon
by Cameron Aubernon
gm hints at aluminum bodies during 5 4b investment announcement

During its announcement of a $5.4-billion investment into its facilities, General Motors hinted at possibly making the switch to aluminum bodies.

Part of the investment would go into the Warren Technical Center in Warren, Mich., where a revamp of its prototype plant would accommodate aluminum, steel, and blended steel/aluminum bodies, The Detroit Bureau reports.

Currently, aluminum has been used on some components and panels for a number of models as the automaker continues its experiments in lightweighting that began with the first Corvette. This is set to change with the upcoming Cadillac CT6, which uses the alloy throughout the majority of the body, while the firewall and floor pan are stamped from steel.

With ever-stringent fuel economy standards looming on the horizon — including the 54.5 mpg fleet fuel economy average set for 2025 — GM may apply aluminum to more of its vehicles to help meet the mandate, as the metal is easier to use than other lightweight materials such as carbon fiber.

However, aluminum is more expensive than steel, which may prompt the automaker to use it on luxury vehicles or on trucks and SUVs, following Ford’s extensive use of aluminum on the new F-150.

Steel, meanwhile, won’t be going away. The steel industry has made gains in developing lighter, stronger alloys, while automakers like GM are using blended sandwich-style body panels to reduce noise.

[Photo credit: Joseph Novak/ Flickr/ CC BY 2.0]

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  • Big Al from Oz Big Al from Oz on May 01, 2015

    The greatest advantage of the use of aluminium will be in the vehicles most impacted by CAFE regulations. This would indicate that commercial vehicles should not be considered prior to automobiles, ie, cars. Pickups have an advantage over cars using CAFE. That's why I found it odd that Ford went to aluminium on the F-150 when it did. When the use of aluminium on cars would of been more beneficial in meeting CAFE requirement. The only reason I can put it down to is design and the use of a full chassis. Look at the alumimium F-150s design and you will notice there are many straight and flat(ish) planes the vehicle is based on. This allows for much easier production, ie, long straight lines as opposed to the many planes that cars are styled with. So, essentially the style of the pickup has made Ford consider it a worthwhile exercise.

    • See 4 previous
    • DenverMike DenverMike on May 04, 2015

      @BAFO - Pay attention this time. I'll go slower: The F-series represents Ford's biggest users of what we like to call "fuel". A small increase in F-series FE translates into tremendous impact for Ford fleet average and collectively, small improvements for up to a million US new pickup owners annually, loaded, empty, don't matter. But it's stup!d to think the Chicken tax creates 25% of anything. Since OEMs easily get around it by something we like to call "loopholes". 25% is a arbitrary number. It could just as well be 2,500,000% But if it guaranteed 25% profit. The Tundra, Titan, Frontier, Ridgeline would enjoy that too. And we'd still have every pickup ever sold here, STILL SOLD HERE!!!

  • Dusterdude Dusterdude on May 01, 2015

    Saturn plastic lanes were great (owned a Vue) although I know they were cost prohibitive that's why they "went away"

  • Conslaw Conslaw on May 01, 2015

    GM's big announcement that it plans to invest $5.4 billion into its factories doesn't give a timeframe. I suspect it is a significantly longer time period than GM's recent announcement of a $5 billion stock buyback that GM said would take 21 months. In other words, GM will likely be paying off stock speculators faster than it will be investing in its factories. That's the old GM way.

  • Amca Amca on May 02, 2015

    The answer here lies in the Cadillac CT6 - its body is a hybrid steel/aluminum structure. They've gotten a fairly amazing result out of it, and there are hints it's what the next gen Malibu follows the same pattern. GM's not going all aluminum. They're going more aluminum.