General Motors Corp.'s two new sports roadsters are bearing some vital composites under their metal skin.
Both the Pontiac Solstice, which went on sale in 2005, and the Saturn Sky, going on sale this year, boast eye-catching curves to boost consumers' concepts of what the Detroit-based automaker can do with design.
And both also rely on a fiberglass trunk-tub structure making up much of the rear end of the vehicle, replacing earlier prototype concepts that used a three-part, metal structure.
The resulting part represents a 30 percent reduction in tooling and a 30 percent reduction in weight compared with the metal proposal, said Keith Bihary, automotive sales manager for Molded Fiber Glass Cos. of Ashtabula, Ohio. Bihary was interviewed at an Automotive Composites Alliance event held Jan. 12 in Detroit for the North American International Auto Show.
The tub provides a small trunk, and storage space for the convertible top.
The company began making the Solstice tub nearly a year ago using liquid compression molding with a fiberglass preform. The computerized production system for the preform allows MFG to fine-tune the structure for any requirements GM has, he said.
The Ohio company is producing tools now for a similar LCM program to supply the Sky, Bihary said.
The Sky and Saturn also use an injection molded sheet molding compound from Meridian Automotive Systems Inc. on the ``tulip panels'' - the curved exterior trim pieces immediately behind the seats.
The Sky, introduced Jan. 8 at the auto show, also has a composite panel on its front fender, between the wheel and door, produced by Dearborn, Mich.-based Meridian. GM is counting on the styling cues within the Sky to help with what it terms a ``major product revitalization'' for the Saturn brand.