The consumer has spoken . . . curbweight is critical

Nov 01, 2008 | 05:20 AM |

Remember the old ad slogan, "Where's the beef?" The question of tomorrow in a more health-conscious environment might well be, "How much fat can you cut?"

Automakers will continue to tinker with different materials to slim down vehicle weight in an attempt to boost fuel economy, some analysts said.

"Weight is one of the biggest areas to be addressed. Everybody's vehicles need to go on a diet," said Jeffrey Jowett, manager of North American powertrain forecasts at CSM Worldwide Inc., Northville, Mich. That's especially true in the face of stricter fuel economy standards and consumers concerned about fuel economy.

That means more aluminum engine blocks and cylinder heads and even more magnesium cam covers. While composites remain expensive, automakers likely will use more of them—especially in body panels as suppliers get up to speed and volumes increase, bringing costs down, he said.

But in some respects, the more things change the more they stay the same. "You are going to have more electric powertrains, which means additional motors and batteries," Jowett said. "But I don't see the internal combustion engine going away for a while."....

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