FIVE YEARS AGO, CARMAKERS used 160 pounds of aluminum per automobile. That's now up to 210 pounds. On Feb. 22, Alcoa announced plans to build a $30 million auto-parts plant near Toledo. Hear the steel companies pacing nervously? Already, Alcoa has collaborated with Audi on an aluminum car, now selling in Europe. The metals giant will assemble components in Toledo for the U.S. auto industry starting late this year. Alcoa says it already has contracts to supply at least one carmaker with structural parts.

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