TRAVERSE CITY, MICH. — Chrysler Corp. will weave the development of its proposed all-plastic car with that of its efforts to build a showcase fuel-efficient vehicle for the next millennium.
The carmaker plans to use the design of its Composite Concept Vehicle, or CCV, to develop a low-emission model.
Auto companies in North America and abroad are vying to come up with a low-cost car design that will cut fuel costs and reduce emissions.
Chrysler is staking its design on a car made of thermoplastic structural body panels with only a limited amount of metal underneath.
That lightweight vehicle, a family sedan based on its Dodge Intrepid platform, is being tested by the Auburn Hills, Mich., automaker.
Carmakers have agreed, under an accord known as the Partnership for the Next Generation of Vehicles, to create a prototype for a fuel- and emissions-saving North American four-door sedan by 2002.
Ford Motor Co. is developing a car with an all-aluminum body, while General Motors Corp. has focused on an electric vehicle. But Chrysler's idea could outperform the others if the carmakers can prune some thorny manufacturing issues by next summer, said Larry Oswald, executive engineer for body panels at Chrysler's Liberty & Technical Affairs center in Warren, Mich.
Until now, the carmaker has hinted at, but not committed to, its vision of a fuel-friendly car under the PNGV banner.
``An [all-plastic] car body would be the most affordable way to go for a fuel-efficient vehicle,'' Oswald said Aug. 3 during the University of Michigan Management Briefing Seminars in Traverse City.
``That's been the main reason why we're pushing so hard for it now. We think we have the best alternative.''
The car company would like to complete initial development by mid-1999 and spend the next three years assembling a plastic vehicle for commercial use, Oswald said.
However, some challenges remain before the automaker pulls the trigger on the production of plastic cars. Those include shatter resistance, sagging under a hot sun, fading, the surface appearance of the unpainted panels and the cost of the body material.
Another issue is ease of repair. Automotive service shops would need to be retrained to handle plastic panel repair, which he likened to fixing boats or snowmobiles.