DETROIT – Reducing vehicle weight was a recent topic of discussion at an Automotive Press Association meeting on May 10. Chrysler posted an overview of the panel discussion on its corporate blog, saying that designers from Chrysler, Ford, and GM were all present at the event.
Panelists discussed using carbon fiber in vehicles, despite the current expense. For example, Ford and GM made announcements this year about their plans to develop cost-effective carbon fiber composites and components. Plastics are another material appearing in less-traditional automotive applications. For example, Chrysler’s Chief Designer Mark Trostle said it cut weight on its Viper by using a plastic intake instead of an aluminum one.
Panelists at the event agreed that many design changes that have an effect on vehicle weight are invisible to vehicle owners and drivers, such as seat fabric thickness or the type of material used under dashboards.
The discussion also covered other methods of improving fuel economy. One technology that Chrysler and other automakers are using to improve mpg includes active grille shutters, for example. Models using this technology include the Dodge Dart, the Ford Edge, and GM's Cadillac ATS, amont others.
One area that panelists said automakers aren’t focusing on is decontenting vehicles, as amenities and overall style are important to buyers. The panelists said today’s customers expect certain technology features, though eliminating CD players came up as a way to cut 5 lbs. from a vehicle.