DETROIT — If cost is still king in the auto industry, then performance demands could be the wild card challenging that supremacy.
Those were some of the results of an annual survey conducted by DuPont Automotive of Troy, Mich., during SAE '98, held Feb. 23-26 in Detroit. The number of engineers polled at the show was not disclosed.
The survey results showed that the greatest number of Society of Automotive Engineers members polled — 39 percent —said cost reduction was the foremost challenge facing them in their design and engineering work. The next-highest challenge was recycling, which captured only 9 percent of the total.
Yet, virtually every engineer polled — 97 percent — also said the level of innovative technology will increase in the next decade. In addition, another 87 percent said a need for new advanced materials will be critical in the future.
``Logic, we thought, would say cost reduction would cause a focus only on eliminating waste and thereby stifle new thinking, creativity and innovation,'' said J. Erik Fyrwald, DuPont director of sales, marketing and development. ``Fortunately, logic doesn't always predict reality, especially when creativity and innovation are involved.''
Besides releasing results of the fourth annual survey, the company also showcased integrated modules, made with a variety of DuPont materials, for fuel systems, powertrain parts and interior applications.
Among the company's innovations is a new engineering plastic alloy based on its Surlyn thermoplastic olefin ionomer resin. The material allows manufacturers to mold bumper fascia parts in color, with a high-sheen, smooth finish similar to painted parts, said DuPont technology program manager Michael Day.
Currently, most in-mold color systems lead to a grainy or dimpled appearance that automakers do not always want, Day said. The new, scratch-resistant product could lead to the elimination of paint shops, which can cost upwards of several hundred thousand dollars, he added.
``Painting is an expensive process but sometimes, there's no choice,'' Day said. ``This material has the surface hardness and high gloss that acts like a painted part.''