Alt Tag: The Mercedes Forward 015 concept car, a sleek, silver, vehicle draws the attention of a crowd eager for a glimpse of the futuristic self-driving car in a showroom that displays the Mercedes-Benz logo in the background.

History of automotive steel

The year was 1885. The internal combustion engine had  been invented and gasoline could  be found in pharmacies, as a stain remover. One day, Karl Benz put gasoline in his engine and revolutionized the world by inventing the first modern car. With a single external piston, an electric spark, a crank that served as the gas pedal and brake, and a top speed of 10 miles per hour, car manufacturing was on its way. And as for the wooden carriage of the first cars? It had been replaced with a steel frame that supplied strength and stability.

Two young men, one with his hand on the crank, ride a replica of the Benz Patent Motor Car, a three-wheeled vehicle with large back wheels and a bench for two riders.

Then came the game changer. Made of vanadium steel, light and strong, the Model T became the first mass produced car in world history. Three pedals — the clutch, reverse, and brake – and a handle for accelerating, the Model T could do it all. It could take on the unpaved American countryside or the glitzy city roads of the Roaring Twenties. It was big enough for a family, but compact enough to be maintained by one man. It was silent enough for conversation en route. All of this, for the low price of $825 dollars ($23,000 today’s equivalent price). It had no gas gauge and was a machine you had to love and understand, or risk being left stranded. This singularly exceptional car changed the face of America forever as stoplights, drive-in gas stations, and mechanic shops became part of the landscape.

Tucked within the story of the Model T lies the secret of automotive steel. By the time Ford began production on the Model T, America was the largest steel service industry in the world. However, Ford did not use pure steel. Instead they chose vanadium steel alloy, a stronger cousin to pure steel.

Automotive steel history brims with the type of innovation that pushes the boundaries of this versatile material. Perhaps no industry requires more exploration and adaptation in steel production than the automotive industry. By 1901, seven years before the Model T, cars could trudge down roads at nearly 50 miles per hour. The technological advances in cars increased accessibility, reliability, and speed, but at the cost of human lives. Safety had become a real problem for car manufacturing.

Curious onlookers stand around a wrecked car whose front wheels have been twisted and whose front end has been crushed by an impact.

The advent of automobile crash testing and the contribution of the steel industry

Crash testing was formally introduced in 1959. Matthias Struck, an expert of integral safety, related that  the engineers conducting the original testing had a very good reason to ensure car safety. The engineers themselves were the car test dummies putting their limbs and lives on the line. Other more risk averse engineers used animals or cadavers. Through it all, cars were becoming increasingly sophisticated with their safety features: seatbelts, crumple zones, anti-lock braking systems, ultra-high strength steel, and airbags all gradually became standard on cars.

Crumple zones, the part of the car that compresses during a crash to mitigate the deceleration forces experienced by passengers, posed an interesting challenge for steel production. Steel companies had to formulate various steel grades that displayed the exact property required by the specific part of the car. The closer to the passengers, for example, the stiffer the steel needed to be to keep external objects from penetrating into the car. The part of the car that received the initial impact, on the other hand, had to be less stiff to allow proper functioning of the crumple zone.

Throughout the years, the standards for steel used in cars has atomized: automobile producers expect thousands of different properties to fit exact performance standards to the tiniest measurement. Steel companies, forged through tough resilience, have grown to meet the challenge. Modern cars are a collage of different grade steels, each placed in different joints and systems of the car to produce minimum waste and top performance.  Through it all, steel has become lighter, stronger, and more versatile than ever.

The future of steel for automotive services and advanced high-strength steel

The steel industry has come a long way since Dodge introduced a car with an all-steel body in 1916. In those days, the world could barely keep up with the technological advances made in the automotive and automotive steel industries. By 1950, however, automotive technology had stagnated and cars began to compete with purely esthetic qualities.

Today, the pendulum has officially swung back. The technological race has once again begun in earnest with competitors looking for any advantage that makes their car the vehicle of the future. Despite tests with aluminum and carbon fiber, both come with drawbacks. In cars, aluminum sections need to be much thicker to perform as well as corresponding steel sections, and carbon fiber costs are sky-high. The other top materials used in cars — rubber, plastic, and glass – still rely on the ultra high-strength steel mainframe.

An original Dennis Jarvis picture showing the thirty-five horsepower 1924 Dodge Model D2 Touring Sedan composed of an all-steel body painted black and red with a rectangular carriage and elongated hood.

National Material of Mexico (“NMM”) is a subsidiary of National Material L.P., operating 16 steel service centers and processing facilities in North America and shipping over 2,000,000 tons of steel annually. NMM specializes in supplying, servicing, and processing steel with unmatched efficiency and capacity due to the company’s substantial list of capabilities. Proud to be ISO-certified, and uncompromised in its safety standards for their employees, National Material is a leader through efficiency, innovation, and performance.

Contact National Material of Mexico: 011-52-81-8319-4828 or email: