Chrysler brings weight savings inside

By Rhoda Miel
News Editor

Published: April 24, 2013 4:05 pm ET
Updated: April 24, 2013 4:13 pm ET

Image By: Chrysler Group LLC Chrysler went through dozens of mold-flow studies with Sabic Innovative Plastics to find the right material for a thin-wall part on the instrument panel for the 2014 Jeep Cherokee.

Related to this story

Topics Automotive
Companies & Associations Sabic Innovative Plastics

DETROIT — When Chrysler Group LLC designed the interior of its revamped Dodge Dart, it was out to prove its status as a reborn carmaker, with a new emphasis on quality and craftsmanship.

The interior did just that, winning awards for the 2013 Dart's styling cues, and praise for a company under new ownership looking to put the old Chrysler and its 2009 bankruptcy behind it.

Now with the auto industry facing another set of hurdles — this time to meet higher fuel-economy standards rather than a severe fiscal crisis — the company is working to balance styling with cutting weight to improve fuel performance.

For the upcoming 2014 Jeep Cherokee, Chrysler pushed its engineers, designers and suppliers to new performance levels, said Mark Sheldon, who oversees cockpit design for Chrysler, during an April 17 discussion on lightweighting interiors at the Society of Automotive Engineers 2013 World Congress in Detroit.

"Weight reduction must be part of designing a vehicle from the very beginning," Sheldon said.

After creating the Dart, Auburn Hills, Mich.-based Chrysler used reverse engineering to take a second look at the upgraded interior and determine how it could have reduced weight without impacting the overall design.

It considered ways to consolidate parts to reduce overall weight, and questioned where to fine-tune structural requirements. The same beam is used to support the steering column and the instrument panel infrastructure, Sheldon noted, but many of the parts hung from that beam do not need the same level of support. Heating and air conditioning ducts do not have the same structural requirements as a steering wheel, for one example.

The development team used lessons learned from both the original Dart development and the engineering study to determine ways to shave weight from the interior of the Cherokee without sacrificing the overall style, he said.

Working with Sabic Innovative Plastics, Chrysler and the material supplier went through 60 different mold-flow studies before selecting the perfect glass-filled polypropylene for an instrument panel substrate that is only 2 millimeters thick, according to Sheldon.

The company is also considering options such as microcellular foaming and alternative structural materials, although Sheldon noted ultralightweight composites such as carbon fiber are not yet ready for full-scale production.

It will also be important to increase development between every step of the supply chain, he and other interior specialists said. Automakers have renewed their emphasis on in-house design, rather than outsourcing some decisions to suppliers. That move allows the companies to put greater emphasis on styling choices while leveraging weight-saving options across multiple vehicle lines, said Tim Boundy, senior manager and GM technical fellow for Detroit-based General Motors Co.

Automakers also can make alterations to the frame or chassis that suppliers cannot, as long as the teams are working together at an early stage. Boundy noted that about five to six years ago, a seat maker found a potential weight savings of more than 10 pounds — but that company was brought in too late to make those changes without also altering the placement and shape of the fuel tank.

Suppliers, meanwhile, can have more knowledge of individual parts, manufacturing improvements or material selection, making it possible to bring to the industry high-volume production using techniques such as in-line compounding, Sheldon said.

As the North American auto industry moves closer to a goal of improving fuel economy to 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025, carmakers will be taking a wider view of all of their mass-reduction options.

"We're going to have to pick and choose which places will get the most funding and development in terms of weight reduction," Sheldon said.


Comments

Chrysler brings weight savings inside

By Rhoda Miel
News Editor

Published: April 24, 2013 4:05 pm ET
Updated: April 24, 2013 4:13 pm ET

Post Your Comments


Back to story


More stories

Image

China's biggest fuel tank maker getting a US foothold

April 23, 2014 4:41 pm ET

The majority owner of China's biggest fuel tank maker is expanding its global automotive footprint with the acquisition of the fuel tank unit of...    More

Image

How CEO Santi is changing ITW

April 23, 2014 2:48 pm ET

Scott Santi is showing he can do more than just cut costs at Illinois Tool Works Inc.    More

Auto supplier adds production space, jobs at plant in central Hungary

April 22, 2014 9:50 am ET

Automotive parts manufacturer Ábrahám Kft. has expanded its factory in Túrkéve, in central Hungary, with the launch of a new production hall as part...    More

Image

Ascend targets nylon for auto applications, opening propylene monomer unit in Texas

April 18, 2014 10:57 am ET

Materials firm Ascend Performance Materials Inc. is in full operation at its new nylon 6/6 compounding line in Florida and will break ground by the...    More

Image

German auto supplier Dr. Schneider opens second US plant

April 17, 2014 12:57 pm ET

Dr. Schneider Kunststoffwerke GmbH, a German supplier of plastic interior auto parts, has opened a $29 million manufacturing plant in Russell Springs,...    More

Market Reports

Market Data Book - Rankings & Lists

A one-stop download of Plastic News' exclusive annual lists and processor rankings containing essential data including sales, employees, end markets, materials and more.
EXCLUSIVE EXCEL FEATURE: full mailing address details for available plant locations.

Learn more

Thermoformed Packaging 2014 Market Review & Outlook – North America

This in-depth report provides analysis and discussions of economic and political conditions, market trends, legislative/regulatory activity impacting supply and demand, business opportunities and threats, materials pricing, manufacturing technology, as well as strategies being implemented by thermoformed packaging companies. In addition, there are reviews of 25 leading thermoformers in the packaging segment, assessing their growth initiatives and performance metrics over 10 years.

Learn more

Mold Making and Tooling Review and Outlook 2014 – North America

This report provides in-depth analysis of the mold and toolmaking market for North America, including discussions of trends, opportunities, threats, the latest developments in production and labor and equipment trends impacting moldmakers.

Learn more

Upcoming Plastics News Events

May 6, 2014 - May 8, 2014Plastics in Medical Devices 2014

May 12, 2014 - May 12, 2014Plastics News Brazil Pharma Summit

September 10, 2014 - September 12, 2014Plastics Caps & Closures 2014

February 3, 2015 - February 7, 2015Plastics News Executive Forum 2015

More Events