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Differences in American vs. Foreign Sheetmetal

I recently read a comment on Toyota’s website from a reader who claimed that the sheetmetal on Japanese vehicles (including those assembled in America under their parent Japanese company’s moniker) was more pliable and more flexible, and would more easily “snap back” to its original shape after being dented, and not lose any strength. The commentator also said that American steel was harder, and less forgiving when being re-shaped to original form. I’m just curious as to whether or not there’s any truth to that. Anyone know for sure?

People make these claims but I feel the truth is; ANY car company can order any material to their own specs. A Focus or Malibu could order the same sheet metal for their cars. When cars from Toyota were made in Japan exclusively and their entire line of subcontractors were “down the street”, maybe there was an exclusive difference. Not any more, no how, no way except by choice. Besides, I would not be surprised at the amount of foreign steel in so called “American cars”.
I know that the steel used in the springs of my older Toyota truck were less pliable as you say. They tended to break more frequently. I replaced them with springs fabricated at a local shop which held up much better. This is the opposite of your statement. So, I don’t feel there is a predetermined difference between steel made in America and abroad. If one supplier, foreign or domestic, does not make the steel according to the manufacturers specs. including price, another will.

It’s A Submyth To The Overall Asian Car Myth.
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That’s funny…since a good portion of steel found on American cars (GM, Ford) come from Japan.

If it’s true (which I seriously doubt it is)…then I doubt it makes any difference what-so-ever.

There are really a limited number of manufacturers of sheet steel. It’s an enormously expensive market to enter, requiring millions of tons of huge equipment. While large automotive manufacturers have the purchasing power to order to their specifications, I’d be surprised if they vary. Special orders that vary from the standard would probably add huge aggregate amounts to the parts costs.

The pliability of the steel in a particular part may vary, but I’d bet that much of the variation is a result of the process of working the panel, which affects the steel. “Deep drawn” stampings go through a series of steps, as opposed to a “shallow drawn” stamping, and all that stamping changes the characteristics of the part somewhat.

I agree. Once the impurities are removed from iron ore, it’s a matter of adding alloys in ratios designed to get the desired characteristics. Absolutely any steel plant worth anything can order up whatever the manufacturer wants. It’s a bean counter/engineering decision that determines from where the steel comes and what the characteristics will be. There are infinite grades of steel.

This reminds me of the parts store guy who, after butchering my brake disc on his lathe, said “Hmmmm…this metal feels soft! That’s the problem!”

How a poster to the Toyota forum would ‘know’ all those specific characteristics of the the different metal alloys would be good to find out!

"Absolutely any steel plant worth anything can order up whatever the manufacturer wants. "

I disagree. Only integrated steel mills can manufacture auto body steel. There are excellent minimills, but they use scrap. Steel scrap has high levels of copper and other tramp metals that make it less pliable and therefore unsuitable for autos, cans, and steel furniture. Steelmakers have been manufacturing steel for auto bodies for long enough that it is a commodity. Any integrated steel company in the US, Europe or Japan can make this grade of steel if they have the rolling mills to handle it.

“jt”, you make my point. We are talking about auto body steel in this discussion where the industry as a whole has decided to go to high strength light weight steel. While plants using scrap are perfectly adequate producing steel or other alloys for clothes line reels, “they are not worth anything” when it comes to producing steels for auto bodies for the exact reason you stated. I see no disagreement.

dagosa, I come at it from a different dierction. I worked in an integrated steel mill for quite a while, and saw the advent of the minimills. For many products, they ate our lunch. And “they are not worth anything” cuts a wide swath. It might go from “they are not worth anything”, literally, to your qualification.

You’re welcome to come from any direction you wish. I’m talking about auto sheet metal. That’s only the context I was referring to. If you think they are worthwhile producers of it, I stand corrected. I believe you said their steel was unsuitable for that use. If the impression was I think others don’t provide a valuable resource otherwise, then that is not so. Using scrap is a valuable process, but not for auto manufacturing, even according to you.

If this discussion were about “off roading” and I made the comment that a Corolla was useless, but failed to add the phrase, “for off roading” would I probably illicit the same resonse ?

I don’'t know much about this. I have a friend in Puebla who does machining work. I saw a 4 inch drive shaft for a bottle making machine, solid, not hollow, twisted right off due to the high forces involved. It was Japanese steel, and he uses nothing but US or Swedish steel, says they are much stronger than Japanese, etc. I realize that is a different issue than body steel, but at least in some cases there is a big difference in steels.

Oh yeah, there are many different grades. I can guarantee that there would be ‘Japanese steel’ that would have the grade needed, they make many high-strength types. Problems I’ve seen are with Chinese oil field equipment (the ‘pumping units’ you’ll see out in a field). Folks have had multiple failures of the bolts holding the equipement together, turns out they’re graded incorrectly.