Bet you wouldn’t have guessed that the US is a world leader in utilizing high-tech processes to produce some of the world’s most advanced steel for use in domestic cars. “Buy American!” ideologues aside, guy-on-the-street polling would probably reveal that most Americans think we get our advanced steel products from some country we either defeated or saved in WWII. Simply not true – if we do one thing right, it’s heavy high-strength metal. (We’ll pause here to let you crank up the Springsteen.) We’re not just talking stainless – the US is leading the way in incorporating such exotic steels, like dual-phase (DP) or transformation-induced plasticity (TRIP), which let domestic automakers build cars that are both safer and more fuel-efficient.
These new steels let Detroit break out of the impasse. In fact, the new steels are so precisely controlled as to be almost fully customizable – you can pick strength, deformity, and other characteristics and it all gets sorted out at the foundry. So that’s all well and good, but why is does it matter? If you’ve been to Pittsburg recently, you’ll note that American steel manufacturers are hurting because of super-cheap foreign competition. By adding unique value to a product you can’t buy anywhere else, suddenly American steel manufacturers are relevant again, and the supply chain for domestic automakers shrinks accordingly. No doubt foreign competition will get wise quickly, but a head start with technologies like these give American manufacturers the cutting edge. Hopefully Detroit will fully capitalize on the trend.