Automakers and their suppliers have known for years how to make plastic auto body parts without paint, potentially reducing costs and a car's environmental impact by eliminating the emissions from paint shops.
But consumers, the automakers would always note, expected a shiny metallic surface on their cars that relied on traditional paints.
With its Jeep Renegade concept car, though, Chrysler LLC is picturing a different type of consumer, who would be attracted by a nontraditional exterior because of its environmental improvements.
``It's a different type of car, for different buyers, and they may be ready to look at a matte finish,'' said Anton Shamenkov, designer for the advance exterior/interior studio with Chrysler following the Jan. 14 introduction of the Renegade and other concepts at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit.
The Renegade, like its sister concept vehicles, the Chrysler ecoVoyager and Dodge ZEO, is built on a lightweight aluminum frame and would use lithium-ion batteries and hybrid-engine technology. Each vehicle boasts ways to save energy, with the Jeep turning to extensive plastics use to lighten up and improve manufacturing.
>From the start, the design team wanted to take advantage of manufacturing that would be appealing, yet also provide more environmental options in keeping with the concept's ``stylish green'' focus.
Molded in color exterior panels made sense, Shamenkov said, and also set the vehicle apart from the rest of the pack.
``You have to approach every aspect of the car with this [environmental] frame of mind,'' he said.
Both the exterior panels and interior would use polypropylene, also making it easier to recycle, said Scott Anderson, senior designer, advance interior studio for Auburn Hills, Mich.-based Chrysler.
``We looked at a lot of design for assembly and disassembly,'' he said.
The interior would sit inside a one-piece molded PP tub, which can be inserted and removed easily from a structural frame, with fewer than five connection points, Anderson said. That will reduce complexity in manufacturing and be easier to recycle. Soy-based foams would go into the seats and head cushions.
Neither the Renegade nor any of the other concept cars are set for production, but Shamenkov noted that the design studies can lead to later breakthroughs. With the Jeep, the company can take a long look at its manufacturing and material options.
``Hopefully this kind of talk that can then trickle down into other products,'' he said.