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Grille shutters make inroads

DETROIT — The drive to get more miles out of a gallon of gasoline is prompting U.S. automakers to bring an additional plastic part to the front of cars and trucks.

Published: February 8, 2013 2:12 pm ET
Updated: February 8, 2013 2:47 pm ET

DETROIT — The drive to get more miles out of a gallon of gasoline is prompting U.S. automakers to bring an additional plastic part to the front of cars and trucks.

Active grille shutters have already been used in Europe for a few years, but began making inroads in North American-made vehicles just in the recent past.

The shutters are plastic louvers located just behind the grille that open when the engine needs to be cooled, but can close when the car or truck is in motion. The closed grille improves aerodynamics, potentially improving fuel performance by a mile per gallon, said Tom Pilette, vice president of product and process development for Magna International Inc.'s Magna Exteriors and Interiors group, during an interview Jan. 17 at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit.

Aurora, Ontario-based Magna had produced shutters in Europe previously, and expanded molding of the parts to North America in 2012 to supply the systems to Chrysler Group LLC for its Dodge Dart and Dodge Ram 1500 pickup.

More automakers are planning to use active grille shutters in future vehicles as the industry moves closer to the federal requirement to improve the Corporate Average Fuel Economy to 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025.

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