Hurt by rising steel imports from China, Tata Steel in Europe is aggressively pushing its higher-margin tailored blanks business to generate more income. A recent 4-million pound (4.7-million euro) investment at the Indian company’s UK plant has tripled production of tailored blanks, which are primarily used by premium automakers such as BMW Group.
Tata Steel is looking to expand its business with volume automakers by showing them the weight-saving benefits of the technology. “We’re seeing more and more use among automakers as they look to reduce CO2 levels,” said Lee Coates, head of Tata Steel’s automotive center at its factory in Wolverhampton, central England.
Hampering the sales pitch is the fact that it’s a costly process. Tata Steel rival ArcelorMittal, the self-proclaimed world leader in supplying laser-welded blanks, estimates that the cost of a tailor-welded door blank can be 30 percent more than the cost of the coil material to make the door. However, overall savings can range from 5 percent to 20 percent once the wider benefits -- less time and effort spent welding and seam-sealing in the body shop -- are factored in.