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

ZF, TRW combination creating a new player for autonomous autos

September 23, 2014 9:59 am ET

The era of autonomous vehicles is close at hand — and is already changing the auto industry in fundamental ways. The latest and biggest example?...    More

Image

Delphi buying connector maker Antaya

September 22, 2014 2:25 pm ET

Delphi Automotive plc will buy Antaya Technologies Corp., a Rhode Island company that supplies wire harnesses and other technologies that connect...    More

Image

Poland's Boryszew to work with Mitsui on lightweight auto parts

September 22, 2014 10:12 am ET

European plastics car parts maker Boryszew Group has signed a letter of intent to work with the Japanese investment and trading conglomerate Mitsui & ...    More

Image

Plasan investing in capacity, jobs to supply auto market with carbon fiber

September 19, 2014 3:05 pm ET

Growth in the emerging automotive market for carbon-fiber composites has spurred a $29 million investment in a Walker, Mich., factory    More

Image

Toyoda Gosei expanding in Mexico

September 19, 2014 2:33 pm ET

Toyoda Gosei North America Corp. is investing $67 million in a 398,000-square-foot plant in central Mexico to supply the automotive industry with plas...    More

Market Reports

Plastics Caps & Closures Market Report

The annual recap of top trends and future outlook for the plastics caps & closures market features interviews with industry thought leaders and Bill Wood’s economic forecast of trends in growing end markets. You will also gain insight on trends in caps design, materials, machinery, molds & tooling and reviews of mergers & acquisitions.

Learn more

Pipe, Profile & Tubing Extrusion in North America 2014

Our special market report provides in-depth analysis of current trends and their financial impact on the pipe, profile and tubing extrusion industry in North America.

Economics editor, Bill Wood, forecasts market growth and industry thought leaders offer competitive insight on key issues and trends impacting PP&T processors.

Learn more

Thermoformed Packaging 2014 Market Review & Outlook – North America

This in-depth report analyzes economic and market trends, legislative/regulatory activity impacting supply and demand, business opportunities and threats, materials pricing, manufacturing technology, as well as growth strategies being implemented by thermoformed packaging companies.

Learn more

Upcoming Plastics News Events

January 14, 2015 - January 14, 2015Plastics in Automotive

February 4, 2015 - February 6, 2015Plastics News Executive Forum 2015

More Events