DETROIT — More than 100 new parts made of sheet molding compound debuted on 1997 passenger cars and trucks, according to an annual study by the SMC Automotive Alliance.
The Troy, Mich., trade group publishes a yearly ``SMC Components List'' that chronicles the use of SMC parts on North American cars, light trucks, vans and sport utility vehicles.
The group found that the number of new SMC components was 43 percent higher in 1997 than in 1996, Chairman Jim Grzelak said at a news conference at the Society of Automotive Engineers Interna-tional Con- gress and Exposition, Feb. 24-27 in Detroit.
``There's been growth in the industry,'' said Grzelak, sales engineer for Eagle-Picher Plastics Division in Inkster, Mich. ``We found that lightweight materials are more prevalent in vehicles than ever before.''
Grzelak, who said that the material's main competition is steel-based parts, announced that more than one-quarter of the 438 SMC parts on vehicles are new in 1997.
The number of total SMC components has risen 52 percent since 1993.
Of that total, about 85 percent of SMC materials are used on body panels, the group reported.
However, several new applications are in production, Grzelak said. Among those are a retooled Chrysler Corp. Jeep Wrangler roof, which uses pigmented SMC to eliminate the need to paint the roof's interior. In addition, a T-2000 Class 8 heavy truck introduced by Kenworth Co. uses 1,000 pounds of SMC, the largest single use of the material, for exterior parts and side pillars.
SMC also has replaced some steel components in the F-150 pickup truck from Ford Motor Co., Grzelak said. The composite material is used for body panels, grille opening reinforcements and under-the-hood parts such as valve covers for the truck's 5.4-liter engines.
Ford reported a 75 percent investment reduction and 22 percent weight savings, compared with steel, by using the material for its F-150 fenders and rear window surround, Grzelak said.
About 10.3 million pounds of SMC is used on 1997 model-year cars and trucks, a slight increase over the 10.1 million pounds reported last year.
The organization is part of the Washington-based Society of the Plastics Industry Inc.'s Composites Institute and is composed of 27 SMC molders and material suppliers.