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GM, Dodge trucks will stick with steel

The Fiat Chrysler 2019 Dodge Ram 1500 Limited pickup truck is unveiled during the 2018 North American International Auto Show in Detroit on Jan. 15, 2018. (Daniel Acker/Bloomberg)

Minnesota's Iron Range received some good news out of Detroit this week when Fiat Chrysler announced it would continue making its Dodge Ram truck bodies out of steel even as it redesigns its light truck line heading into the 2019 model year.

It follows news from December that GM also will continue using domestic steel for its newly redesigned 2019 Chevrolet and GMC trucks.

Much of the domestic steel used for domestic trucks is made out of domestic iron ore, all of which comes from Minnesota or Michigan. And automakers continue to be one of the largest drivers of demand for domestic steel and ore.

Fiat Chrysler said it would buy its steel from AK Steel, Nucor Corp and ArcelorMittal. AK and Nucor buy taconite iron ore from Cleveland Cliffs, which operates United Taconite, Hibbing Taconite and Northshore Mining in Minnesota and the Tilden operations in Michigan's Upper Peninsula.

ArcelorMittal owns and operates the Minorca mine in Virginia and is part owner of Hibbing Taconite.

Fiat Chrysler and GM decided not to follow Ford which, starting with its 2015 models, moved to all-aluminum truck bodies to save weight and improve gas mileage. Bauxite, an aluminium ore, is the world's primary source of aluminium and is mined mostly in Australia, China and Brazil.

Ford, the nation's largest seller of light trucks, accepted a higher cost for aluminum, analysts say more than double steel. But it gave Ford's F-150s better gas mileage with about 700 pounds less weight per truck.

Since then GM and Dodge have moved to other technological advances to boost gas mileage, even while each making their next-year trucks longer, and both GM and Fiat Chrysler are using a new, high-strength steel that is lighter than traditional steel but still cheaper than aluminum.

ArcelorMittal on Tuesday said it had assigned engineers to most major automakers to improve the efficiency of their steel in cars and trucks.

"Steel is and always will be the complete package to help automakers achieve the fuel efficiency targets set before them," Blake Zuidema, director of ArcelorMittal's automotive steel division, said in a statement at a Detroit Auto Show event Tuesday. "It's the most affordable solution for our customers and the consumer; it's the best choice for the environment."

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