LIVONIA, MICH. (Nov. 7, 10:20 p.m. ET) — For General Motors Co., the crossover vehicles Chevrolet Traverse, Buick Enclave and GMC Denali are a big part of its future sales plans.
The vehicles are intended to attract sedan buyers who want something able to carry more people or cargo – without the fuel needs of a sports utility vehicle — while SUV buyers of the past can move into a crossover to downsize.
Both groups of buyers want an interior that doesn't look like they are compromising, however, so as part of its marketing push for the 2013 crossover vehicles, Detroit-based GM was careful to play up quality and comfort, pointing out “upgraded materials” with a soft-touch surface on the instrument panel for the Traverse and “French stitching that adds a tailored look” to the instrument panel for the Acadia.
The crossover category — essentially a small SUV built on a car platform — will be the focus for many automakers in the coming years. Forecasters expect crossover sales will climb from a current rate of about 4.5 million sold per year to 7 million by 2017, said Kim Korth, president and owner of Grand Rapids, Mich.-based consulting group IRN Inc.
What consumers likely will never realize is the engineering breakthroughs for GM and its supplier Inteva Products LLC that made those materials, soft touch and stitching possible. The Society of Plastics Engineers, however, noted the developments by awarding the crossover line's all-polyolefin instrument panel both the Body Interior award and the Grand Award during the 2012 Automotive Innovation Awards, presented Nov. 7 in Livonia.
The instrument panels represent 20 years' worth of research and development by Inteva to create substrate, foam and skin all from the same base material. The finished product is more efficient to produce, easier to recycle but with a supple top layer that mimics PVC, urethane and leather, thanks to improvements developed by in-house compounding by the Troy, Mich.-based supplier.
“Cars have become a home away from home and people want upgraded materials,” said Pat Stewart, Inteva vice president and executive director of interior systems while discussing the company's project during an October SPE conference. “They want fit, finish and execution and you have to put it all together in a vehicle without any squeak or rattle.”
Thermoplastic polyolefin had the best promise for the skin along with other olefins, but the company had to create its own blend of materials and processing to get to the final product.
The instrument panel uses materials from Adell Plastics Inc. of Baltimore and Ticona Engineering Polymers of Florence, Ky. KTX Co. Ltd. of Konan, Japan, was the toolmaker.
The Body Exterior award went to Chrysler Group LLC of Auburn Hills, Mich., for the carbon fiber composite hood on the 2013 SRT Viper sports car.
Plasan Carbon Composites of Bennington, Vt., molds the hood with materials from Toray Carbon Fibers Inc., of Decatur, Ala., and Umeco plc – part of Cytec Industries Inc. of Woodland Park, N.J. Weber Manufacturing Technologies Inc. of Midland, Ontario, was the mold maker.
Other awards went to:
Ford Motor Co. of Dearborn, Mich., won the Chassis/Hardware award for the dual-rate air extractor on the Escape and Edge SUVs. Wegu Manufacturing Inc. of Whitby, Ontario, uses two-shot molding of polypropylene and thermoplastic elastomer to produce the extractor. RheTech Inc. of Whitmore Lake, Mich., supplies the resin. Anfe-Moulds Inc. of Brampton, Ontario, is the mold maker.
Ford won the Materials award for the air vents in the Escape, Fusion and Lincoln MKZ vehicles which use a controlled crystallization polyamide to eliminate the need for paint. The crystallization provides a smoother surface for the glass-filled nylon, improving the appearance. TRW Automotive Inc. of Livonia and Key Plastics LLC of Northville, Mich., are system suppliers for the project using a Leona 6/6 nylon from Asahi Kasei Plastics North America of Fowlerville, Mich. Liberty Molds Inc. of Portage, Mich., and J&J Tool & Mold Ltd. of Oldcastle, Ontario, are mold makers for the program.
The single piece carbon fiber composite air extractor for the 2012 GM Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 won the Performance/Customization award. TransGlobal LLC of Auburn Hills, Mich., is the system supplier and deBotech Inc. of Mooresville, N.C., is the processor and toolmaker. The part uses materials from Umeco, BASF Corp. of Florham Park, N.J., and Sabic Innovative Plastics of Pittsfield, Mass.
Nissan Motor Co. Ltd. of Tokyo won the Powertrain award for the water outlet assembly on its 2012 Altima sedan. The assembly has 10 different ports, requiring complex tooling and processing to replace a two-piece part with a single part. MPC Inc. of Walworth, Wis., is the system supplier and processor, using materials supplied by Solvay Advanced Polymers of Brussels. Industrial Molds Group of Rockford, Ill., was the mold maker.
The Processing/Assembly/Enabling Technologies award went to Ford for the direct extrusion of a bulb seal on the cowl of the 2013 C-Max. Windsor Mold Group of Windsor, Ontario, is the system supplier and processor for the part using a Santoprene thermoplastic vulcanite from Houston-based ExxonMobil Corp. Reis Extrusion GmbH of Merzenich, Germany, is the toolmaker.
Ford won the Safety award for the integrated headlamp and hood stop bump bracket on the 2013 Fusion sedan. The injection molded part improves pedestrian safety. Magna International Inc. of Aurora, Ontario, is the system supplier and processor, using a PP supplied by Styron LLC of Berwyn, Pa. Advantage Mold Inc. of Londonderry, N.H., is the toolmaker.