In order to meet the upcoming regulations on greenhouse gas emissions, aluminum use in the automotive industry is increasing. However, this increase is now seen as part of a multimaterial strategy. Consequently, dissimilar material joints are a reality, which poses significant challenges to conventional fusion joining processes. To address this issue, cold metal transfer (CMT) spot welding process was developed in the current study to join aluminum alloy AA6061-T6 as the top sheet to hot dip galvanized (HDG) advanced high strength steel (AHSS) DP590 as the bottom sheet. Three different welding modes, i.e., direct welding (DW) mode, plug welding (PW) mode, and edge plug welding (EPW) mode were proposed and investigated. The DW mode, having no predrilled hole in the aluminum top sheet, required concentrated heat input to melt through the Al top sheet and resulted in a severe tearing fracture, shrinkage voids, and uneven intermetallic compounds (IMC) layer along the faying surface, leading to poor joint properties. Welding with the predrilled hole, PW mode, required significantly less heat input and led to greatly reduced, albeit uneven, IMC layer thickness. However, it was found that the EPW mode could homogenize the welding heat input into the hole and thus produce the most stable welding process and best joint quality. This led to joints having an excellent joint morphology characterized by the thinnest IMC layer and consequently, best mechanical performance among the three modes.

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