Serious About Steel

Automakers continue to use the material to make vehicles that are strong, safe, light and affordable. Here’s a look at some of the recent uses of steel.

Although there is a lot of discussion of aluminum and even composites for vehicle manufacturing, make no mistake: steel is still the choice for the production of many vehicles. Here are some of the ones that the Steel Market Development Institute (smdisteel.org) tells us are among the most “steel-intensive.”

 And it is an impressive list. (The steel amounts are per SMDI. The comments are ours.)

2018 Ford EcoSport
The Ford EcoSport is a B-segment crossover vehicle that will be launched in the U.S. market next year, having been previously available in other global markets, where small vehicles have historically been more popular. But this crossover category has become exceedingly hot in the U.S. The EcoSport is being built in four plants around the world to serve the demand, including in Camaçari, Brazil (where the primary engineering was performed with a global team), Chennai, India, Rayong, Thailand and Chongqing, China. The body structure consists of more than 50 percent high-strength and ultra-high-strength steels.

2018 Chevrolet Equinox
In 2016, according to Autodata, Chevrolet delivered 242,195 Equinoxes. That’s more than any other vehicle in the company’s lineup with the exception of the Silverado pickup. Which is all the more remarkable because that’s the last full year of sales for the second-generation of the compact crossover. The third generation starts with 2018. This consists of 11 percent high-strength steel. Which may not seem to be all that much. But here’s the kicker: it is 31 percent ultra-high-strength steel.

2017 Buick LaCrosse
One of the hallmarks of Buick is what the company calls “QuietTuning.” Which has to do with using sound-absorbing and sound-attenuating materials. It also has to do with creating a solid structure. According to Buick, the sound level of an idling LaCrosse is 30 dB(A). The inside of a library is 40 dB(A). The sound level of a cruising LaCrosse is 60 dB(A). The typical volume of a television in a living room is 70 dB(A). Yes, quiet. The LaCrosse is built with 26 percent high-strength, low-alloy steel; 23 percent mild steel; 16 percent ultra-high-strength steel; 15 percent advanced high-strength steel; 9 percent bake-hardenable steel; and 8 percent press-hardened steel.

2017 Honda Ridgeline
The Ridgeline pickup is atypical in more than just having a unibody structure. It is also the only pickup to have a 5-Star Overall Vehicle Rating from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and a TOP SAFETY PICK+ rating from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. Both of which are as good as it gets in terms of ratings. As regards the body material used for the Ridgeline, 19.3 percent is ultra-high-strength steel, 35.7 percent is high-strength steel and 41.3 percent is mild steel. (To be fair, there are also aluminum and magnesium. At 1.6 percent and 0.6 percent, respectively.)

2018 Chevrolet Traverse
The all-new Traverse, depending on configuration, seats eight people. Which is probably the definition of “family vehicle.” So safety is important. Certainly, Chevy is providing all manner of technology to help make the Traverse safe. Like front pedestrian braking, forward collision alert, low- and high-speed forward automatic braking, lane-keep assist. And more. It also has a body-in-white that’s 100 percent steel.

2017 Volvo V90
The accompanying picture of the structure of the Volvo V90 is color-coded, based on material use. Gray is mild steel. Blue is high-strength steel. Yellow is very high-strength steel. Orange is extra high-strength steel. And red is ultra-high-strength steel. The green? Aluminum. The V90 is built on Volvo’s Scalable Product Architecture (SPA). As is the S90. And the XC90. The XC90 is the first vehicle built on SPA. Volvo points out that the first-generation XC90 had a safety cage that used 7 percent hot-formed boron steel. But the second-generation XC90, like other SPA-based vehicles, goes much further: 40 percent boron steel. The objective, as always with Volvo, is to achieve superlative safety. But by using the steel, it is doing so without any penalties of mass.