The project, which represents a $400 million investment, positions Aleris to meet significant growth in North American automotive demand as the industry pursues broader aluminum use for the production of lighter, more fuel-efficient vehicles. The company began shipping automotive products from Lewisport to customers this month.
"The opening of our new automotive facility in Kentucky marks the completion of a significant piece of our strategic realignment, which includes expanding our capacity and capabilities to serve the automotive industry and other high value end uses," Aleris Chairman and CEO Sean Stack said. "As an experienced supplier to automotive manufacturers in Europe, we look forward to partnering with customers more closely now in North America to bring them the most advanced auto body sheet products in the industry."
Lewisport is the company's first site in North America that is equipped with aluminum auto body sheet finishing capabilities. Announced in 2014, the expansion includes the addition of heat treatment and finishing capabilities, including a new wide cold mill, two continuous annealing lines and an automotive innovation center, which includes a state-of-the-art research and development center in Detroit.
"Strong customer collaboration in research and development has been a key component of our success in serving the global automotive industry, and we look forward to building on that success with this expansion in North America," said Andreas Gondorf, vice president, Aleris Global Automotive.
The projections for growth in demand for aluminum auto body sheets over the next 10 years are significant. A recent study of North American light vehicle aluminum content released by Ducker Worldwide states that over the next decade, automakers will continue to increase the adoption of high-strength, light-weight aluminum in new car and truck construction at a faster pace than at any time in history.
The properties of aluminum, 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.