Global automakers have been talking about a “global car” platform strategy for the past few years — working with suppliers that can produce the same parts to the same standards in multiple countries.
And for Ford Motor Co., that also means meeting the same sustainable manufacturing standards for those cars and their parts in any region as well.
“[Sustainability] is part of a total corporate strategy for products,” said Jennifer Gilhool, director of sustainability, environment and safety engineering for Ford's Asia-Pacific and Africa group.
At Plastics News' China Plastics in Automotive conference April 17 in Shanghai, Gilhool stressed the importance of clear environmental strategy across Ford's global manufacturing footprint. At its new $760 million manufacturing plant in Hangzhou, China — being built with Chinese joint venture partner Changan Ford Mazda Automobile — the Dearborn, Mich.-based automaker will install the same production processes used everywhere else.
That will include using soy and other bio-based foams in seating, and natural reinforcement in plastics, such as coconut husk, to make parts that are lighter than glass-filled thermoplastic composites.
Ford has said it also intends to continue its use of microcellular molding. It launched production of an instrument panel on its Escape and Kuga sport utility vehicles last year using Trexel Inc.'s MuCell process to save $3 and 1 pound of weight per vehicle.
Ford's “three wet” painting process, designed to reduce production time and the emissions created during painting, is being installed as part of the expansion at its plant in Chongqing.
By 2015, the automaker plans to introduce 15 new vehicles to China. The plan will include enhanced powertrain technology that incorporates engine turbochargers — which use a variety of engineering-grade resins — to help drivers there get more miles from their fuel.
“There are 1 billion cars on the road today,” Gilhool said. “We could have 4 billion cars on the road by 2050. Even with zero-emission vehicles and using renewable resources, 4 billion cars is still 4 billion cars.”
Ford Chairman Bill Ford has said that sustainability in the face of the increasing demand for personal cars is one of the industry's next big challenges, she said.