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Company News, 2003-08-28, 02:00 AM

Cars - Pure Fascination for ThyssenKrupp Stahl too

Cars guarantee the individual mobility of both current and future generations. Whatever the cars of the future look like and however they are powered, steel will continue to play a key part in their construction. That was the message put across to journalists in Duisburg, Germany by Dr. Ulrich Jaroni, Executive Board member of ThyssenKrupp Stahl AG responsible for the Auto division. ThyssenKrupp Stahl will be able to play to its strengths. "We can meet all the requirements of automakers for a modern vehicle, i.e. low weight and low production costs combined with maximum safety," said Dr. Jaroni. Steel has an unbeatable price/performance ratio and can be tailored to any purpose.

ThyssenKrupp Stahl AG`s Auto division has 3,200 employees and sales of 4 million metric tons of steel a year worth some 1.9 billion euros. Including subsidiaries in the Carbon Steel business unit, total sales to the auto sector in the year to September 30, 2002 amounted to 2.2 billion euros and accounted for 33% of ThyssenKrupp Stahl AG`s overall sales volume. Customers include auto manufacturers, suppliers, pressing and stamping plants and the wheel industry.

"We concentrate on products with high value added," said Dr. Jaroni. Coated sheet accounts for some 80% of supplies. The main market is Western Europe, where 84% of business is transacted. Half of ThyssenKrupp Stahl AG`s supplies to the 15 EU member states go to the auto industry, covering 20% of the sector`s overall steel requirements and a significantly higher share of cold-rolled and coated sheet products. The company also supplies customers in Asia, North and South America. "We follow our global customers to their production facilities all over the world as they expect our technological expertise, outstanding quality and comprehensive service wherever they are," said Dr. Jaroni.

One market with outstanding potential is China. Under the Shanghai Krupp Stainless joint venture with its partner Baosteel, ThyssenKrupp is setting up an integrated stainless steel mill in the country. It is also establishing an important foothold for its carbon steel products, as China is the world`s fastest growing automobile market. With a current output of 3.9 million vehicles, the country is already the world`s 4th biggest producer. Current forecasts predict annual growth of 12 percent to 2008, boosting production to 6.9 million autos. Domestic producers are unable to satisfy the growing demand for high-quality hot dip coated sheet: 67% of requirements were met by imports in 2002.

Together with partner ANSC Angang New Steel Co, US$180 million is being invested in the TAGAL hot dip coating facility in northern China. The new plant has an annual capacity of 400,000 metric tons - of which 80% will be supplied to the auto industry - and will commence trial operations end of 2003. A tailored blanks production facility has been set up in Wuhan as a first bridgehead to the expanding automobile plants with an initial capacity of 1.8 million blanks per year.

There are plans to further expand activities with ANSC, starting with a steel service center with tailored blank production facilities in the northern Chinese city of Changchun, where the Volkswagen group, Toyota and Mazda are increasing their capacities. Similar production sites are planned at Shanghai and Guangdong in the south to supply high-quality carbon steel products to the plants of international automobile companies located there.

With a view to reducing weight in automotive construction, ThyssenKrupp Stahl came up with an important innovation in the 1980s with its tailored blanks, an area in which it is world market and technology leader. This development has now grown into an entire family of tailored products, and there is no end in sight to this success story. Experts forecast further higher-than-average growth for tailored blanks in the coming years. European tailored blanks output was around 780,000 metric tons in 2002; this figure is predicted to rise to 1.2 million tons by 2007. With foreign demand also continuing to grow, the ThyssenKrupp Tailored Blanks group plans to produce 64 million blanks in 2007, as compared with 37 million or 445,000 tons in 2002. To meet this target, ThyssenKrupp Tailored Blanks GmbH is expanding capacity at its Duisburg-Hüttenheim, Germany facility. Investment of 55 million euros will double capacity at the plant to 20 million units and create 100 new, high-quality jobs.

"We have great hopes for our New Steel Body innovation, which will be unveiled at the Frankfurt Motor Show in September," says Dr. Jaroni. In terms of profits, however, the fruits of this concept will not be reaped before the next decade, as it will first be used in the production of the next generation of cars in around six years.

The New Steel Body is designed as a complete, weight-optimized steel body-in-white (space frame). The selected reference vehicle was Opel`s Zafira compact van, which is produced in volumes of 200,000 and was given top ratings in particular for its crash performance. The main aims were to show that our design can achieve maximum weight savings while remaining comparable with the reference model in every detail, and also that the concept is suitable for volume production.

The New Steel Body achieved weight savings of 24%, mainly through an intelligent combination of classic monocoque and innovative sectional construction. Around half the body-in-white is made from stampings, the other half on the basis of Tailored Tubes (closed thin-walled hollow sections) as well as innovative rolled and Davex sections, joined by structural connections suitable for volume production.

One technical highlight are the front side members: made from Tailored Tubes with tapered geometry, these components offer significantly improved energy absorption in the event of a collision. The design makes intensive use of hollow sections to harness the full potential of high-strength steels, which make up 84% of the components. Laser-welded parts account for 68%. A further objective of the New Steel Body project was to ensure that all the technologies, materials and parts used can be integrated easily in production operations. Delivering outstanding variability, the concept is in line with the strategies of our automotive customers for building several variants (sedans, station wagons, minivans or convertibles) on a single platform. "As an additional bonus, our new concept costs much the same to produce as previous steel designs, but significantly less than aluminum solutions," said Dr. Jaroni.

Contact:
ThyssenKrupp Steel AG
Erwin Schneider
Tel.: +49 203 52 - 2 56 90
Fax: +49 203 52 - 2 57 07
e-mail: erwin.schneider@tks.thyssenkrupp.com

Dietmar Stamm
Tel.: +49 203 52 - 2 62 67
Fax: +49 203 52 - 2 57 07
e-mail: dietmar.stamm@tks.thyssenkrupp.com

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