DUSSELDORF, GERMANY - To provide the broadest and most attractive lines of product to the automotive industry, GE Plastics and BASF AG have put together a technologies development company to pursue new concepts and designs for cars. GE Plastics of Pittsfield, Mass., and BASF of Ludwigshafen, Germany, announced the technology development venture at the K'95 trade show in Dusseldorf.
Details of the new company have not been finalized, but its initial activities are expected to be in Europe, and any developments quickly will be moved to North American automotive markets as well, executives of both companies said.
``This technological corporation will combine our resources and design work, and will give us the broadest line of products - from polypropylene to poly-phenylene oxide to polycarbonate - of any company working in the automotive field,'' BASF's Christian Hauck said.
Hauck leads technology planning and development for BASF Plastics business units.
The development corporation marries GE Plastics' $5 billion engineering thermoplastics busi-ness with BASF's expertise in polyolefins, styrenic-based and ure-thane poly-mers. BASF reported 1994 sales from plastics and fibers of 11.4 bil-lion deutsche marks ($7.02 billion).
``With this corporation, GE engineers can consider using polyolefins, which they have never had before, and we can consider using engineering thermoplastics that they have,'' he added.
The major industry trend that has automakers outsourcing more of their components readily lends itself to this type of technological development company, Hauck said.
``We are looking at the auto-mobile in terms of modules that have to be built and delivered to the auto company,'' he said.
While plastic body panels are a primary goal for development rather than simple metal replacement, he said the new firm will be charged with developing approaches and concepts.
``We are looking at modules. For example: A front-end module could include a bumper, a bumper fascia, an energy-absorbing structural member, energy-absorbing foam and a structural support component,'' Hauck said.
He explained that the structural support component probably would be a support for a radiator or fan housing, while also connecting the front-end module to the rest of the car.
The combination of all these elements would be driven by a desire to reduce weight, lower costs and enhance function, while giving the Tier 1 supplier a complete and complex product to deliver to the automaker's assembly line.
As a further example, Hauck said door modules could include an outer horizontal panel that could be painted off the assembly line, a reinforced structuralmember and energy-absorbing foam products as safety features, injection molded handles and buttons for operating the window and door, and GE Plastics' ``Superplug,'' a door component that combines 61 metal parts into one.
``We have done, we have looked for all the simple metal replacement tasks for the auto industry for the last 10 years. This now is a chance for us to develop truly new uses for plastics for automobiles,'' Hauck said.
``We can dramatically reduce the weight of cars by using plastics. The only problem, for now, is that it costs more money to do so.''
However, he added, the cost problem should dissipate as the new corporation develops concepts.
Hauck said the ``Swatch'' car will be the first real role model for the concepts he hopes the joint venture with GE Plastics will develop further.
Swatch is to be produced and marketed by MicroConcept Car AG, a joint venture between automaker Daimler-Benz AG of Stuttgart, Germany, and Schweizerische Gesellschaft fur Mikroelektronik und Uhrenindustrie AG - known as SMH - of Biel, Switzerland.
While its official name is the ``Smart'' car, it gained the Swatch nickname because SMH developed and produced the popular Swatch watches.
``The Swatch car will be ... a role model for the entire industry, and everyone will watch it closely,'' Hauck said.
The hoped-for success of that car may lead to further developments through the joint technology company, and new plastics auto parts, Hauck added.