Auto sales to drive aluminum demand – Novelis

NEW YORK, Thu May 3, 2012 – Novelis Inc.the world’s largest maker of aluminum sheet, said strong U.S. automotive sales this year would help drive U.S. demand for products using aluminum at a pace consistent with an expected 2 percent growth in U.S. gross domestic product.

“We look at the U.S. economy, all things considered, as stable and running at about a 2 percent GDP, maybe 2.5 percent. Nothing exciting, but still growing,” CEO Phil Martens told Reuters in a recent interview.

He projected global aluminum demand growth of 4 percent to 5 percent in each of the next five years, which would exceed U.S. demand growth.

In the United States, the aluminum chief was particularly upbeat about the automotive sector’s use of aluminum. He forecast that demand will grow dramatically over the next three to five years as the industry shifts to lighter materials to boost fuel efficiency and to reduce emissions.

“We’ve moved from let’s watch this, to let’s study it, we’re not sure what the scale will be but its going to exceed our expectations. Now we’re trying to figure out how to best support it long term,” he said of the movement toward more aluminum use by automakers.

Martens also assessed consumer buying patterns in the company’s two other main markets, saying beverage cans have been relatively stable for six months and consumer electronics demand continues to grow.

But he noted that U.S. consumers can be skittish.

“We still think the consumer in general has the ability to be scared. You have to be very cautious, because last year in the first half we were cruising along and then this debt ceiling debate came along and threw everyone for a loop,” the CEO said.