NEW YORK — Normally, plastics and steel companies are tough competitors, but they may have to join forces to fight future aluminum cars, said a top car body official from DaimlerChrysler Corp.
John Fillion, DaimlerChrysler manager of body materials, said steel and plastic both have attractive qualities. But plastics combined with steel offers the best of both worlds, he told Society of Plastics Engineers members at a speech during Antec '99 in New York, which ran May 2-6.
``If an aluminum car ever becomes a reality on a mass basis, it will force a marriage between plastics companies and the steel suppliers. They will have a common interest,'' he said.
Fillion joined Chrysler in 1978. In 1992, he became manager of organic materials engineers, where much of his work focused on composites. He took the top auto body engineering post in 1997.
Chrysler is known for trying out plastic concept cars. Fillion cited the Plymouth Pronto, Composite Concept Vehicle and a Jeep with a plastic body. Some, like the Prowler, become production vehicles.
Fillion said molded-in color is the next hurdle, which could eliminate the need for expensive painting. But coatings suppliers are responding with new technology to reduce those costs, he said.
Steel makers also have made big strides to lower costs, making steel that is thinner and stronger.
``The steel industry is not a bunch of guys with old technology,'' he said. ``In fact, you would be hard-pressed today to find steel that was on a car 10 years ago. These grades simply don't exist.''
Fillion also said magnesium could win some structural applications from composites because of its low cost, light weight and strength.