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Detroit seeking rust warranties

The nation's Big Three automakers, seeking to compete with the high-quality image of Japanese autos, are telling steel suppliers they want to offer five-and 10-year rust warranties on cars.

''All steel mills are under pressure to provide a large quantity of galvanized products, which cost money and aren't available from US steel companies,'' Seiichi Muto, president of the US subsidiary of Nippon Kokan Company, said.

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''This will be a real challenge to the steel industry,'' said Merle Cleeton, automotive planner of US Steel Corporation. ''The technology to do this is there. It's just a matter of dollars. . . . The cash flow of all steel companies is way down.''