Chrysler Corp.'s CCV maximizes plastics
Nearly half a century ago, General Motors Corp. ushered in production of plastic cars with the fiberglass-body Corvette. The sporty two-seater was neither designed nor priced for the masses.
At the Frankfurt Auto Show in Germany this month, Chrysler Corp. displayed its concept of a molded plastic car, specifically designed and priced for the masses.
The Composite Concept Vehicle, or CCV, has captured significant industry attention. A collaborative effort by Chrysler and seven suppliers, the car is intended for the potentially huge markets of China, India and Southeast Asia. A Chrysler spokesman says the CCV would sell for $6,000 or less.
That is inexpensive by U.S. standards, but still pricey for its stated target markets. The per-capita gross domestic product is $317 in China and $288 in India, compared with $22,219 in the United States, according to World Bank figures.
Poverty makes the challenge of producing a ``people's car'' formidable. Conversely, the potential rewards are enormous for the company that can produce a simple, rugged and inexpensive auto to sell in countries such as China and India, the world's two most populous nations. Against that backdrop, plastic has to be viewed as a major part of the production solution for economic reasons. While more technical and safety tests must be done, the CCV is a modern version of what Henry Ford placed on the road at the opposite end of this century with production of the Model T.
Chrysler, which is historically better known for building cars the automotive equivalent of Gothic cathedrals, can rightly claim to have achieved, in this example, a breakthrough.
Bridge the Gap 1997
While sitting at a plastics seminar, did you ever wonder: What do frequent industry-event speakers do with all those plaques? At a new design conference called Bridge the Gap, they ate them!
Chocolate plaques were just one of many tasteful ideas at the conference Sept. 4-6 in Buffalo. The goal was to bring together product designers and manufacturing engineers for three days of fun events, including a visit to toy maker Fisher-Price, coupled with educational talks and tabletop exhibits.
It worked. For all the talk in today's manufacturing world about ``tearing down the wall'' between design and manufacturing, in reality, the two sides are far apart at many companies. Also, too many product designers graduate knowing little about plastics.
Bridge the Gap helped change that. Give credit to the co-sponsors, the Society of Plastics Engineers' Product Design and Development Division and the local chapter of the Industrial Designers Society of America. About 140 people attended the conference, a little light, but not bad for a first effort.
SPE and IDSA don't know whether there will be a Bridge the Gap II next year. Much depends on whether organizers can find another Fisher-Price, a big company willing to share its design strategies and open its doors.
Since the gap still needs bridging, we hope it becomes an annual event.