High-End Plastics Creating New Automotive Design Opportunities

20 October 2002

The increasing use of plastics in automotive applications will allow manufacturers more freedom in the design of new cars in coming years, according to BASF.

Susanne Mueller of BASF's Performance Polymers business in North America said that a key trend in the use of plastics in coming years will be the replacement of the metal structure in the front end of new vehicles with a hybrid of engineering plastics and metal.

Replacing the metal structure behind the grill with a hybrid of metal and plastic will help enhance manufacturing efficiency because of the increasing trend toward modular assembly and it will enhance environmental performance via fuel efficiency because of weight reduction.

""The use of engineering plastics allows designers much more freedom to do things they couldn't do in the past. You could see some more creative front end designs over the course of the next few years as designers test the limits. In theory you could do that with metal but that becomes far too labor intensive,"" Mueller said.

In addition to changes in front end design trends driven by high-end engineering plastics, Mueller said other coming trends include expanded use of plastics under the hood in applications such as a modular unit combining an oil pan, filter and pump. This type of application will reduce weight and help speed assembly through the use of more modular elements.

Mueller's comments came during a media briefing at the BASF Automotive Campus in Southfield, Michigan.

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