For nine straight years, automotive engineers have considered cost reduction their top priority, but new issues also are cropping up, with an increased emphasis on studies into alternative-fuel vehicles and a shift in thinking about the recyclability of cars and trucks.
``The impact of the [European Union] directive on vehicle recycling is making a global impact on engineering decisions,'' said James Weigand, vice president of sales and development for DuPont Automotive and engineering polymers, during a March 5 news conference at the Society of Automotive Engineers 2003 World Congress in Detroit.
This year, 49 percent of the engineers responding to DuPont's annual survey at SAE said they believe an emphasis on recyclability will be more important during the next five years, compared with 8 percent calling it less important.
In 2002, only 28 percent believed the emphasis would increase, with 36 percent believing it would be less important.
Pricing issues were listed by 44 percent of those people surveyed as the top concern for this year, compared with 30 percent a year ago. DuPont is taking note of those worries, Weigand said, working with molders to come up with complete systems that can help them cut total component costs even in the face of increasing resin prices.
``Managing the total cost of a system or new technology to meet that challenge is key, and the best strategy is through close collaboration starting at the design phase,'' he said.
But climbing rapidly into second place was the topic of alternative fuels, listed as the top issue by 16 percent of the engineers - an 80 percent climb from 3 percent just a year ago, Weigand noted.
Emissions regulations came in at third place, with 15 percent listing it, up slightly from 14 percent in 2002.
Falling off the list of concerns was fuel efficiency, which ranked in the second spot last year, selected by 17 percent of engineers. It did, however, fall into the top five areas that engineers believe consumers find important.
Also on the engineers' list of important issue were enhanced safety systems, better vehicle performance, entertainment technology and convenience through electronic map systems.