Abstract Aluminium has been used in the manufacture of automobiles for more than 100 years and current usage averages more than 150kg per vehicle. Recent demands for higher fuel economy, improved vehicle performance, and lower CO2 emissions are currently driving a dramatic increase in the usage of specially designed aluminium alloys in the automotive industry. Aluminium flat-rolled sheet products are currently seeing wide-spread application for many components previously produced from steel. The technical requirements for aluminium sheet include high levels of formability, high strength, corrosion resistance, surface appearance, and long term reliability of joints. While these requirements are often in direct conflict, improved understanding of microstructure and surface has enabled the economical production of sheet that can meet the necessary customer demands. Three key developments in metallurgy and surface science that have made aluminium automotive sheet possible are reviewed: control of precipitate morphology for high strength, surface microstructure for bond durability, and crystallographic texture for surface appearance after forming.