Japan’s NSSMC expects to see new breed of cars amid strong global steel demand

Major Japanese steel producer Nippon Steel & Sumitomo Metal Corp (NSSMC) expects the requirements for car-making materials to become more diverse and advanced as automotive producers try to make vehicles that are lighter, stronger and more environmentally friendly.

“Rapid innovations in information technology such as artificial intelligence, a shift to electric [power] and other new energy vehicles [NEVs], and the adoption of self-driving vehicles are expected to bring significant changes to society and industry,” NSSMC said in its mid-term plan, published on Friday March 2.

“Requirements for properties of materials are becoming diverse and advanced. Automobiles are becoming lighter and more electrified, and electronic components are required to be even lighter, thinner and smaller, as well as more reliable,” the company said.

Data from the Japan Iron & Steel Federation show that the consumption of ordinary steel by the Japanese domestic automotive industry increased by 2.5% to 9.11 million tonnes in 2017, from 8.89 million tonnes in 2014.

The consumption of speciality steel products by the domestic automotive industry also increased over the same period, to 4.53 million tonnes from 4.15 million tonnes. This was a rise of 9.16%, more than three times the increase in ordinary steels.

Global steel demand to increase
NSSMC expects global steel demand to increase steadily over the long term, in line with a strong world economy. This would in turn spur construction and infrastructure development in emerging countries, as well as continued rejuvenation of the domestic urban infrastructure in Japan.

In a recent interview with Metal Bulletin, the company said that its domestic Japanese market would continue to boom for the next three years on tight market fundamentals and healthy demand from downstream segments, as well as demands arising from the staging of the Olympic Games in Tokyo in 2020.

NSSMC’s joint acquisition of India’s Essar Steel with ArcelorMittal is an example of where it is expanding its overseas integrated steel production bases, in order to supply steel products to areas where demand for infrastructure is increasing, it said.

It was also to help prepare the company for the effects of rising protectionism and a shift toward self-sufficiency in markets.

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