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Japanese Companies Plan U.S. Aluminum Partnership


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Two Japanese companies, Kobe Steel Ltd. and Toyota Tsusho Corp., expect to finalize a partnership in September that will begin U.S. production of aluminum sheet metal for cars in 2017.

The companies predict the quest for more fuel efficient vehicles will multiply annual demand for sheet aluminum in North America tenfold to more than 1 million tons by 2020.

The partners expect to supply material mostly for body panels but also may make aluminum sheet for radiators. They have not disclosed their production or sales goals or announced where their operations will be located.

Toyota Tsusho will handle marketing for the partnership. The companies intend to use their output to supply U.S., Japanese and European auto plants in North America.

Kobe Steel will be in charge of production. The company is in talks with Alabama-based Wise Alloys LLC to supply it with master coils to make the aluminum sheet. Kobe says it current controls more than half the Japanese market for aluminum panels.

Kobe notes that last year it formed a technical partnership with Germany's Hydro Aluminum Rolled Products GmbH and launched an aluminum sheet metal production company in Tianjin, China, that will begin operations in 2016.

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