Plastics News staff reporter Rhoda Miel reported the following briefs from the North American International Auto Show media preview, held Jan. 4-6 in Detroit.
ASC keeps acronym, but changes name
ASC Inc. is sticking with the same letters for its formal name, but the words behind that acronym have changed.
The firm that began as American Sunroof Co. nearly 40 years ago now is referring to itself as American Specialty Cars.
``Our true focus is in specialty vehicles,'' President and Chief Executive Officer Paul Wilbur said Jan. 4 before the auto show.
ASC sold its aftermarket sunroof operations last year, focusing on producing either unique parts for existing vehicles - such as a composite hood for versions of General Motors Corp.'s Pontiac Grand Am - or entire body panel systems, such as on DaimlerChrysler AG's Dodge Viper.
ASC is chasing more complete systems like the Viper and GM's SSR sports-truck roadster, Wilbur said. With carmakers looking to customize even mass-produced cars, future North American vehicle production for some nameplates could average 40,000 units. At that level, automakers will turn to firms like ASC that can produce low-volume niche cars and trucks, the firm said.
Nissan increases PU in spray-in bedliner
Nissan Motor Co. Ltd. is expanding its polyurethane use for pickup truck beds, with a spray-in bedliner set for the next-generation Frontier truck when production begins later this year.
The company established its own spray bedliner program for the full-size Titan truck, which premiered in 2003. The smaller Frontier will feature the same program, said Chief Executive Officer Carlos Ghosn. Both trucks are made at the Tokyo-based automaker's Canton, Miss., plant.
New SMC know-how gains attention, use
Improved technologies to reduce surface flaws on sheet molding compound are receiving extra attention and business for composites suppliers.
Tough Class A SMC, developed by AOC LLC and the composites unit of ThyssenKrupp Automotive AG, will appear on the high-profile 2004 Ford Motor Co. Mustang, as well as the automaker's Thunderbird, Explorer Sport Trac, Lincoln Navigator, Econoline van and some off-road versions of the F150 truck, said the Automotive Composites Alliance in Southfield, Mich.
Improvements to a sealing system created by BASF Corp. and paint maker Red Spot Inc. also are winning awards, appearing on General Motors Corp.'s Cadillac XLR sports car, which launched production in 2003.
Plastics allow cars to dress up or down
Concept cars introduced by Ford Motor Co. of Dearborn, Mich., and Volkswagen AG of Wolfsburg, Germany, are turning to plastics to change the look of their interiors.
Ford's Lincoln Mark X uses DuPont's Corian cast acrylic for accent touches, marrying it with what the automaker calls a ``lime sorbet'' color scheme.
DuPont designers have been featuring Corian during recent presentations to automakers, looking for new applications for the material now used in kitchens and bathrooms.
On the other end of the driving spectrum, Volkswagen's dune-buggylike Concept T offers drivers an option. Special quick-release fasteners allow consumers to swap causal, plastic trim for leather.
JCI interior designed for electric vehicles
When the auto industry is ready to adapt to fuel-cell power for vehicles, Johnson Controls Inc. will have a new interior designed to meet carmakers' needs.
The supplier developed its 3E concept interior around the new demands of an electric car that draws its power from fuel cells.
The proposed passenger compartment, which debuted at an auto show preview, aims to meet economic, ergonomic and environmental demands, said Keith Wendell, president of JCI's Plymouth, Mich., automotive group.
There is no reason to believe automakers or consumers will want the same standard interior in a car built around a new power system, he said.
Performance demands will different, noted design group member Brian Dexter. Carmakers now use wads of sound-absorbing materials to deaden engine noise to the interior. A fuel-cell vehicle, with nearly silent operation, will not need that separation, although road sound still will be an issue.
``You won't need a layer of padding and fabric to absorb noise, making it easier to recycle,'' he said.
When possible, those materials could be made from recycled feedstock, Dexter said.
Head-impact zones also can use just one material by injection molding into the underside of the trim, using that structure to provide the cushion in an impact.
The system also makes room under the back seat, where the firm believes fuel cells and batteries will be stored.