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Aluminum and Pricing

21 April 2000
Vancouver, Canada
hey hey,

These ideas of mine have been on my mind for a while, but i always forgot to post. Here goes.
We all know that the NSX is made up of aluminum, and the second largest mining/distribution aluminum company is located here in B.C, named Alcan. (The largest aluminum company is in France i think) So i'm thinking, that a lot of the aluminum used for the NSX is exported to Japan from Alcan. I'm just wondering why it costs so much to refine aluminum, considering the metal itself is cheap, when compared to other metals.
Also, does anyone know why the NSX costs much more here in Canada? The last time i checked (over a year ago), i think the NSX cost 120 grand canadian. Thats' quite a bit. But it think most of it comes from the TON of R&D that Honda put into making the car. And titanium doesn't come cheap either.

Any thoughts?

My udnerstanding that aluminum is more costly to weld and form for structural strength than steel. Steel is much more rigid and easier to manipulate which makes the cost of using a steel framed car cheaper. Aluminum, on the other hand, requires more engineering and special tools which makes the cost of an aluminum frame car higher. Thus the higher price of aluminum cars.
One thing to keep in mind is that the NSX body panels are made of a super strong and super light aluminum alloy composite. It is NOT just aluminum, but a complex mixture of various metals that give it both its compressive and its tensile strenght. Normally aluminum has much less compressive strenght than steel, that is why crushing an aluminum soda can is easier that crushing a shaving cream container normally made of steel of the same diameter.

It is because the metal is easy to melt and easy to work that it is so hard to use effectively in production. Normal welding and materials handling practices are not applicable. While it is easy to cast or mold, it is more difficult, time consuming and expensive to forge pieces and mill units out of pure billet aluminum. The amount of metal that ends up as waste in that process is HUGE! There are so many factors as to why it is more expensive than there is space or time to do here, but any of them alone is enough to make engineers rush for steel that be easily stamped out quickly and cheaply or God forbid Fiberglass that can be easily molded to fit odd shapes. Much harder to make aluminum do what you want it to without is costing an arm and a leg.

Gordon G. Miller, III
Y2K NSX #51 Yellow/Black
You call that expensive? I paid HK$1,180,000 (~A$150,000) for my 99 NSX. About half of that sum went to the blood-thirsty Hong Kong government.
hey hey,

G-Man: Thanks for explaining. I really didn't know that. I'm still wondering about the whole aluminum thing, cuz comparing weight (not the car itself, cuz nothing compares to the NSX...anyhow) i read that the 911 has a steel frame, while the NSX aluminum alloy, while they both weigh about the same. NSX stronger? I have no idea.

cxray: Argh! I totally know how you feel. Yea cars cost a TON in HK, BUT when you compare with Canada, it costs MUCH more in canada! How is this possible? Well HK has a flat tax rate, and it is MUCH easier to earn money in HK (I'm chinese). WHILE in Canada, the tax rate is by percentage, and here in Vancouver, the income tax rate is a WHOPPING 55%!!!!
I'm not lying here! And on top of that, there's a 14% tax rate, and not including luxury tax on the car! So in the end, the car costs _much_ more comparatively speaking in Canada.

I have both a 996 and a 93 NSX. on paper they weight about the same. How is this possible? well, first, the 996 is a smaller car, it's shorter and narrower. Second, the NSX has a very light frame, but it's body panels are comparable with other steel bodied cars, because Honda had to use a lot more aluminum to make it as stiff as the steel counterpart, kinda defeats the purpose doesn't it? Also, some parts on the NSX are quite heavy, for example, the seats, the glass hatch, the cast iron brake components(Porsche uses monoblac aluminum calipers), etc. Another thing is that Porsche uses a lot of aluminum as well in it's chassis and engine.

Please visit my NSX tuning page! Mods, Japanese NSX related stuff, pics!
Yes, the 996 is a smaller car. It's also rear-engined while the NSX uses a heavier mid-engine design.

However I question the claim that Honda used a lot more aluminum to make the body panels. They are pretty thin and very light if you've ever held one off the car. I have never felt steel body panels that were as light.
Originally posted by Lud:
However I question the claim that Honda used a lot more aluminum to make the body panels. They are pretty thin and very light if you've ever held one off the car.

Again, I have to stress that from 1997 on, Honda revised the composition of most of the body panels to make them even thinner and lighter than before by using a super strong Aluminum alloy that is supposed to be pound for pound about 5x stronger than steel. I don't know where this idea came from that there must be 500 lbs. more Aluminum in the car somewhere to make up for how stiff the car needs to be since it isn't steel. That is just dumb. The aluminum alloy panels are as strong, as light and as thin as Honda dared to make them in a production vehicle.

If you think about the comparison of the 996 to the NSX and think about it, they weigh the same, but the NSX is longer, wider and covers more surface area of body panels, yet the cars weight is about the same as the 996... that should indicate that the aluminum is LIGHTER than the Porsche for all that additional area it is covering.

Keep in mind the NSX is almost as wide and almost as long as my 4,500 lb. BMW 740i. That should tell you something about how light and strong the NSX is.

Gordon G. Miller, III
Y2K NSX #51 Yellow/Black