Vehicles capable of achieving better fuel economy and lower
emissions through the use of lightweight materials, such as
aluminum and advanced high-strength steels, were a focal point
of this years North American International Auto Show in
The event kicked off
with Dearborn, Mich.-based Ford Motor Co.s introduction
of its redesigned aluminum-bodied F-150 pickup truck (
amm.com, Jan. 13), and was followed by unveilings
of vehicles featuring increased use of lightweight metals from
a variety of automakers, including Tokyo-based Honda Motor Co.
Ltd., Stuttgart, Germany-based Mercedes-Benz and Wolfsburg,
Germany-based Volkswagen AG.
While much of the talk
has centered on innovations used in the development and
application of lightweight aluminum alloys, several major
manufacturers said advanced high-strength steel continues to
play a crucial role in the decade-long push toward lighter,
more fuel-efficient vehicles.
"The Acura MDX has a
structural ring behind the door that is constructed from
hot-stamped high-strength steel. Its one of the first
times its ever been done and is new to 2014 on the MDX,"
a spokesman for American Honda Motor Co. Inc.s Acura
division told AMM, adding that the use of advanced
high-strength steel on the MDX accounts for about 275 pounds in
weight savings. "Essentially, its the basis for the
entire advanced compatibility engineering structure."
The MDX was designed
to perform very well in offset crash tests, the spokesman said,
adding that advanced high-strength steel used in the door frame
is the key component to the vehicles performance in that
type of frontal crash testing.
However, one point of
concern for those with steel and aluminum interests is the
recent shift to composite materials, namely carbon fiber, in
higher-end performance vehicles. The push toward carbon fiber
to replace advanced high-strength steel and lightweight
aluminum alloy, is a "very real thing," several major
manufactures, including Munich-based BMW AG, noted.
"We are using more and
more carbon fiberreally transitioning from steel to
carbon fiber," Ludwig Willisch, president of Woodcliff Lake,
N.J.-based BMW of North America LLC, told AMM. "You
can do a lot with carbon fiber; we even played around with
making the frame and doors from carbon fiber, the whole side
panel. You can basically use it everywhere instead of using
metal. We are definitely moving in that direction."
For the time being,
however, it appears that composite materials, which can be
expensive to produce, wont be featured prominently on
most mainstream vehicles.
important, but is also a factor of how much it costs," Michael
Horn, president and chief executive officer of Volkswagen Group
of America Inc., Herndon, Va., told AMM. "Step by step
in the past it was always new car, bigger car, more heavy. And
now we work ourselves down because everything belongs to the