The average aluminum content in 2002 model year cars and light trucks will increase to 268 pounds per vehicle, up from 255 pounds just last year, according to a report from American Metal Market (AMM), a metal trades journal. Both domestic and import automakers are using more aluminum to improve fuel economy, reduce emissions and enhance vehicle performance. While casting alloys make up much of the gain, AMM reports that sheet, extrusion and forging alloys are gaining acceptance in the automotive marketplace. “As automakers gain experience designing parts for aluminum, rather than just from aluminum, even more of the performance advantages inherent in the material will be unlocked. As consumers demand increasing vehicle content that adds weight, aluminum will help compensate by maintaining or even reducing vehicle mass,” said Dr. Richard Klimisch, vice president of The Aluminum Association. “Engineers know that aggressive weight reduction is the best way to improve fuel economy, emissions and performance. For these reasons, as well as improved corrosion resistance and recyclability, automakers are more and more turning to performance aluminum,” Klimisch added. Automakers have known for years that aluminum improves vehicle performance, but they’ve mostly applied it to specialty vehicles. Examples include the Panoz Esperante, Acura NSX, Audi’s flagship A8 and S8 luxury sports sedans and the civilian version of GM’s HUMMER. But in recent years, aluminum has made impressive gains in high volume vehicles. According to AMM, some of the new aluminum production parts for 2002 are: * The standard wheels; dual-piston, front-brake calipers; suspension system control arms and uprights; and power steering rack housings and pinions on Ford’s new Thunderbird. * Front and rear bumper reinforcements on Toyota’s Highlander SUV. * The liftgates, radiator enclosures, wheels and front differential cases on the Cadillac Escalade. * Hoods and front fenders on Ford Explorers and Mercury Mountaineers. * Automatic transmission cooler cases for the Corvette, plus front stabilizer bar links in the Z06 model. * Aluminum-intensive, four-wheel independent suspensions in the Cadillac Catera. * Rear crossmembers, control arms, knuckles, driveshafts and axle housings in the four-wheel-drive version of the Buick Rendezvous. * Aluminum-intensive, heavy-duty automatic Allison transmissions for use in large pick-up and service trucks. * Radiator enclosures, front differential cases and wheels on the Chevy Avalanche. * Chrysler’s new 3.7 liter, V-6 engines, which will be used in the Jeep Liberty, have aluminum cylinder heads, front covers, water pumps, alternator cases and various brackets. * Extended versions of GM’s midsize SUVs will be available with all- aluminum Vortec V-8 engines.