That’s among the key findings of the seventh annual Ward’s Automotive Trends survey, released to coincide with the annual Center for Automotive Research (CAR) Management Briefing Seminars, recently held in Traverse City, MI.
Conducted by Penton Market Research and sponsored by DuPont, the annual survey polled nearly 750 automotive sector employees---from system, component and parts manufacturers to engine and engine-service companies and vehicle manufacturers. The pool of respondents represented expertise within the engineering, design, manufacturing, marketing, sales and corporate segments.
The 2017 Wards Auto survey suggests that automakers are moving forward with strategies to reduce vehicle weights and improve fuel efficiency. The auto industry competes in a global marketplace, and engineers continue to look for innovative lightweighting solutions---and global material solutions providers such as DuPont are well-positioned to offer the materials and expertise required.
Lightweighting Remains a Key Focus
The 2017 Wards Auto survey finds that lightweighting and the use of lightweight structural materials continue to lead the list of technologies respondents are most focused on to meet the 2025 CAFE standards. Engine efficiency programs came in second. Vehicle electrification technologies came in third (mild hybrid/start/stop) and fourth (full hybrid/plug-ins) respectively, both demonstrating slight gains over 2016.
Plastics Show Promise
Though aluminum remains the most-cited material choice for meeting the 2025 CAFE standards, automakers have sharpened their focus on engineering plastics as a lightweighting tool, which increased by 5 percentage points year-over-year---the single-largest increase in material choices versus 2016---while interest in multi-material solutions retreated by 4 percentage points. Advanced composites such as continuous fiber and carbon fiber took fifth place, behind advanced, high-strength steel.
“In addition to enabling innovations in passenger safety, comfort and convenience, plastics have been delivering lightweighting solutions for more than 30 years,” said Brian Fish, North American automotive marketing manager, DuPont Performance Materials. “The newer emerging technologies like advanced composites hold promise. However, by engaging material suppliers early in the design process, there are still many opportunities for lightweighting with existing materials.”