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The Answer, Says Chevy, is Blowin’ in the Wind

Maker uses aerodynamics to boost mileage on 2013 Malibu.

by on Sep.01, 2011

A 2013 Chevy Malibu prototype sits in the business end of the GM wind tunnel, the massive blades able to blast wind at speeds up to 138 mph.

The smokescreen flows smoothly up and over the hood, the stream arcing gracefully over the roof.  But, when it hits the mirror it shatters into eddys and curls.  Who knew something so small could cause so much trouble.

Actually, it’s something John Cafaro was well aware when he set to work on the 2013 Chevrolet Malibu.  It’s often the most subtle details that can cause the most serious problems when it comes to designing a car that cuts through the wind like a knife.

Aerodynamics have played a critical role in aircraft development almost since the Wright Brothers’ Flyer first took to the air.  But it would be decades before automotive stylists truly understood the role the concept could play in their designs – helping improve performance and vehicle stability while also yielding significant improvements in fuel economy.

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Today, however, any good designer “has aerodynamic solutions in mind” the moment they begin work on a new project, explains Cafaro, the veteran GM designer, as he leads a tour of the automaker’s mammoth wind tunnel at its sprawling technical center in the Detroit suburb of Warren, Michigan.

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