These news briefs were gathered by reporter Rhoda Miel during the Jan. 5-7 press preview days at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit.
Delphi puts money into steering unit
When General Motors Corp. rolls out the revised version of the midsize Malibu sedan this year, it will feature several elements of the non-PVC interior the carmaker has sought for the past three years.
The Detroit-based automaker noted with its introduction of the 2004 Malibu that it will use thermoplastic olefin on the instrument panel, door trim and center console.
The Malibu also will debut Delphi Corp.'s electronic power steering system, which uses a thermoplastic worm gear set. The company created the plastic unit for use in a program that replaces hydraulic hoses and metal gears with electronics.
Troy, Mich.-based Delphi is investing more than $300 million at its Saginaw Steering Systems plant in Saginaw, Mich., to produce the new components, including the plastic gears.
GM and Chrysler utilize carbon fiber
Composites are continuing their place on concept cars for the show floor, but DaimlerChrysler AG is trying out carbon fiber in a wholly nonmotorized way - used in a pair of customized surfboards atop the Dodge Kahuna.
The surfboards are easily visible from inside as well as outside the Kahuna, which opts for a retractable textile roof. Company officials declined to say if the surfboards are actually ready for the big waves.
The vehicle - intended to show a Dodge version of a sports activity minivan - also uses a composite maple laminate on body side panels.
General Motors Corp., in the meantime, uses fiberglass for the body on its Pontiac G6 concept sports sedan, a vehicle that could go into production in some format in the future.
Concept vehicles using Vanceva film
The V-16, 1,000-horsepower engine in General Motors Corp.'s Cadillac Sixteen concept car may get the bulk of the attention at the auto show, but the Detroit-based automaker also used the vehicle to continue its studies with plastic-laminated glass.
GM teamed with Solutia Inc. and its Vanceva brand of polyvinyl butyral films in glass for all of its concept cars, said Thomas Laboda, Solutia's automotive market development manager. The Vanceva line allows carmakers to add color to the strength of laminated glass through tints in the PVB film.
For the Cadillac 16, that meant providing a gray shade to the curved glass that served as the car's roof.
And GM is not the only carmaker using Vanceva in its concepts. Ford Motor Co. used it in the Freestyle FX, a cross-over with a moveable roof system that allows the vehicle to change from a sport utility vehicle layout to a pickup truck with a small cargo bed.
Designers wanted a glass similar in color to a beer bottle, Laboda said, although the car company in its press literature referred to the tint as amber.
Automakers develop fuel-cell technology
Automakers continue to tout fuel cells as the next logical step for the family car, but researchers also are looking into power of military might to move the prospects forward.
Toyota Motor Corp., which already has leased some fuel-cell prototype vehicles, unveiled its sports car concept: the Toyota Fuel Cell Innovative Emotion-Sport, or FINE-S.
General Motors Corp. and the U.S. Army's Tank-Automotive Armaments Command - or TACOM - center in Warren, Mich., together debuted a proposed military truck based on GM's Silverado pickup truck that also carries a fuel-cell auxiliary power unit.
The power unit uses a proton-exchange membrane fuel-cell stack, which relies on a polymer membrane to draw electricity from the chemical interaction of hydrogen and oxygen and can generate 5 kilowatts of electricity, roughly the amount needed to power a typical single-family home.
The trucks are designed for use as light tactical vehicles for the military. GM will deliver prototypes to the U.S. Army later this year to allow the armed forces to evaluate the vehicles for possible future sales.