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Alcan Technology Enables Landmark Aluminum Jaguar

Alcan Automotive : 26 September, 2002  (Company News)
The flagship Jaguar car makes history as the first volume production vehicle with a unibody structure manufactured predominantly of aluminum sheet. Jaguar has employed Alcan’s Aluminum Vehicle Technology (AVT) to design a stamped sheet structure that is some 40 per cent lighter than an equivalent steel body, and 60 per cent stiffer than the previous XJ.

Additionally, all of the car’s “hang-on” body parts – hoods, doors, fenders and trunk lids – are also produced of aluminum, further contributing to weight reduction and improved performance.

“We applaud Jaguar for the vision and the determination to produce this remarkable automobile,” said Travis Engen, President and CEO of Alcan Inc., which is supplying all of the aluminum sheet for the vehicle. “Jaguar customers will benefit from a car that delivers excellent performance in fuel economy, emissions, handling, safety, and driving pleasure. This car is truly ‘the art of performance’… in aluminum.”

Alcan’s technology for aluminum vehicles has been developed in co-operation with automotive customers worldwide and refined through a number of concept vehicles and low-volume production applications. The major innovation of the system is the adhesive bonding of structural sheet sections in combination with self-piercing rivets. With the new XJ, Jaguar and Alcan have partnered to apply this sheet-based technology for the first time to a volume manufacturing program.

“For Alcan, the new XJ represents the culmination of two decades of automotive research and development, much of it in partnership with Jaguar,” said Engen. “The launch of the car is as much a milestone for Alcan as it is for Jaguar.”

Alcan’s automotive specialists worked alongside Jaguar engineers and designers to provide assistance from initial design, through prototype development, right up to vehicle manufacturing. In addition to helping to optimize the structural design, Alcan contributed its extensive knowledge of materials and joining methods, and its experience with aluminum stamping and die design.

As lead aluminum supplier to the XJ program, Alcan provides aluminum “blanks” directly to Jaguar’s stamping presses at Castle Bromwich, U.K. The blanks are produced with a special surface treatment at Alcan’s automotive sheet plant in Nachterstedt, Germany. The plant features a new US$15-million blanking center, including a dedicated blanking line and four automated laser cutting stations.

Hot-rolled coils of aluminum sheet are supplied to Nachterstedt from the Norf rolling complex at Neuss, Germany -- the world’s largest aluminum rolling mill with a capacity of 1.5 million metric tons annually. The Norf and Nachterstedt plants, along with Alcan’s rolling mill in Sierre, Switzerland, form the Company’s European automotive sheet system.

This sheet system, matched by a similar operation in North America, is part of Alcan’s strategic response to the growing demand for lightweight automotive components. The Company also offers a range of innovative products and technologies for engineered shaped products and structural components and assemblies. In June, the Company began work on a multi-million dollar expansion project to more than double its production of aluminum bumpers and side impact beams at Gottmadingen, Germany.
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