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

Sabic: Rapid demand growth led to Ultem shortage

December 18, 2014 12:06 pm ET

Sabic Innovative Plastics has been increasing production capacity for its Ultem polyetherimide but it still got caught short by increasing demand for ...    More

Image

Indian auto parts maker set to buy assets in Germany, Mexico

December 18, 2014 10:35 am ET

Indian auto parts maker Samvardhana Motherson Gropup is buying the assets of insolvent German plastics car parts producer Scherer & Trier (S&T).    More

Image

Fiat Chrysler drops Chrysler Group name in favor of FCA US

December 16, 2014 9:05 am ET

Chrysler is Chrysler no more. Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, the Netherlands-based parent company of what was Chrysler Group LLC, said today that it has...    More

Izo-Blok opens Polish car part plant

December 15, 2014 9:16 am ET

Poland's plastic car parts maker Izo-Blok has launched its new production facility in Chorzˇw, in Poland's southern region of Silesia.    More

Image

Automotive supplier IAC expands in Alabama

December 12, 2014 12:34 pm ET

Automotive giant International Automotive Components has expanded its Alabama operations with a new 126,000-square-foot facility located adjacent to i...    More

Market Reports

Flexible Packaging Trends in North America

Our latest RESEARCH report examines trends in FLEXIBLE PACKAGING impacting the North American market including a review of economic conditions, key drivers of growth, materials pricing, M&A activity, sustainability challenges and the outlook for 2015.

Learn more

Plastics Recycling Trends in North America

This report is a review and analysis of the North American Plastics Recycling Industry, including key trends and statistics based on 2013 performance. We examine market environment factors, regulatory issues, industry challenges, key drivers and emerging trends in post-consumer and post-industrial recycling.

Learn more

Plastics in Mexico - State of the Industry Report

This report analyzes the $20 billion plastics industry in Mexico including sales of machinery & equipment, resins and finished products.

Our analysts provide insight on business trends, foreign investment, top end markets and plastics processing activity. The report also provides important data on exports, production, employment and value of plastics products manufactured.

Learn more

Upcoming Plastics News Events

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

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

June 2, 2015 - June 3, 2015Plastics Financial Summit - Chicago 2015

September 16, 2015 - September 18, 2015Plastics Caps & Closures - September 2015

October 27, 2015 - October 29, 2015Plastics Financial Summit - New York - 2015

More Events