Ford Motor Co. has started experimenting with the idea of molded-in-color composites for exterior body panels on its cars.
While only used on the concept small car the Start, which debuted at the Beijing Auto Show in April, the thermoplastic composite was part of a design study to look at ways to minimize the materials and refine its lines without the typical design cues, the company said.
The Start represents a pared-down design, Ford Chief Creative Officer J Mays said during Ward's Auto Interiors Conference, held May 19 in Dearborn.
While Mays stressed that there are no plans for production, he said the Start also shows that Dearborn-based Ford can make gorgeous cars that fit into growing needs for lightweight, environmentally friendly small cars for the urban market.
Across the world, more consumers are confronting issues including green technology, more-efficient use of available space, recycling and asking if big is necessarily better, Ford noted in a news release.
The Start looks to use lightweight materials, but still make them look inviting to consumers. Its composite body panels wrap around an aluminum and steel body construction and an aluminum safety cage for a sleek form that the company calls both sporty and efficient.
Using exterior composites also would contribute to a 308-pound reduction in the car's weight. The composite roof also could be removed, allowing buyers to customize the look of their cars.
Environmentally friendly plastics also would go inside the Start, with sisal fibers in structural plastics for interior panels. The seat design calls for them to be placed on a visible, molded composite shell.
This is not about who can be the most creative, Mays said, but who can deliver the most to the customer in terms of what he wants.
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