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Prepping for First SUV, Rolls-Royce Begins Testing New Aluminum Spaceframe

All new models, including Cullinan, will adopt new platform after 2018.

by on Jan.07, 2016

A teaser image from Rolls-Royce shows a mule being used to test the maker's new utility vehicle.

There has always been something a bit anachronistic about Rolls-Royce, retro if you prefer. The big grille, classic hood ornament and, oh, so much mass.

But Rolls is ready to go on a diet. Confirming earlier plans, the British maker now says it is already testing an all-new, aluminum spaceframe architecture that will serve as the basis for all new models, starting in 2018. Among the list of upcoming products to get the lightweight touch: the new off-roader that Rolls officials are referring to as Project Cullinan.

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Rolls-Royce has been moving to modernize itself, starting with the all-new factory it built in Goodwood, said Torsten Muller-Otvos, the marque’s CEO. “It is time to take the next step in the luxury journey.”

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Ford First to Use Lightweight Gorilla Glass for Production Car

Smartphone tech will debut on new Ford GT supercar.

by on Dec.16, 2015

An overhead view of the new Ford GT reveals its Gorilla Glass windshield and engine cover.

When it comes to attacking weight, Ford plans to use some guerilla tactics. Make that “gorilla,” as in Gorilla Glass.

The new Ford GT supercar will become the first vehicle to use a special, multi-layer version of the high-strength glass initially developed by Corning for the consumer electronics industry. It is widely used for smartphones like the new iPhone 6S.

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The automotive version of Gorilla Glass is both thinner and significantly lighter, Ford says, but it retains its strength without sacrificing the safety and noise reducing properties of traditional automotive windshield glass.

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GM Puts Its Products on a Diet

Efficiency is part of performance, says product czar Reuss.

by on May.19, 2015

The 2016 Chevy Camaro lost 200 pounds.

Pressure to improve fuel economy in the face of tough new federal rules is forcing General Motors to put its future products on a diet – something that will also require a major change in its internal culture, said the maker’s global product development chief.

The new 2016 Chevrolet Camaro is an example of this shift in direction, said Executive Vice President Mark Reuss. In years past, each new product was heavier than the model it replaced. But the sixth-generation muscle car is 200 pounds lighter. Cutting mass, Reuss said, not only translates into a more fuel-efficient vehicle but one that is quicker and more nimble.

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“It still needs to be a wicked fast track car,” he said. But Reuss added that, “I include efficiency in performance.”

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Ford Plants to Boost Use of Carbon Fiber

Lightweight material could play major role in tomorrow’s cars.

by on Apr.20, 2015

The new Ford GT makes extensive us of carbon fiber.

When Ford’s new GT supercar makes its way into production next year it will make extensive use of super-light carbon fiber.

Until now, advanced composites have had only limited application in the auto industry because of their cost and the manufacturing challenges they pose. But as part of a new joint venture, Ford says it hopes to find ways to put carbon fiber into more mainstream applications going forward.

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“Automotive manufacturers’ use of carbon fiber composites has been hindered by the absence of both high-volume manufacturing methods and affordable material formats,” said Mehmet Ali Berkman, vice chairman of DowAska, which is itself a partnership of Dow Chemical and the Turkish firm Aksa Akrilik Kimya Sanayii.

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Automakers Put Their Cars on a Diet

Bigger can be better -- and lighter, too.

by on Apr.13, 2015

The Cadillac CT6 - as big as a BMW 7-Series, but as light as a 5-Series.

With the launch of its 2016 CT6 sedan, Cadillac says it is setting out to “reinvent” itself, but some of the steps the maker has taken in the development of the new model will likely trigger changes across the industry.The new Cadillac CT6 is the same size as a big BMW 7-Series – but it weighs barely as much as the German maker’s smaller 5-Series sedan. In fact, the new Caddy flagship weighs less than its own midsize luxury sedan, the CTS.

“Lightweighting” has become one of the big buzzwords in today’s global auto industry as maker’s race to get the weight out of their vehicles.

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The primary reason is to meet the tough new Corporate Average Fuel Economy, or CAFE, standards that will jump to 54.5 mpg by 2025. Mass, explains Cadillac Chief Engineer Dave Leone, “is the enemy of efficiency.”

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Ford Aims to Retain F-150’s Sales Lead

Production not likely to return to normal levels until Q2 2015.

by on Nov.11, 2014

Ford CEO Mark Fields said the new "aluminum intensive" F-150 should send a message to competitors that company intends to remain atop the truck heap.

The long-awaited launch of the 2015 Ford F-150 should send a message to skeptics that Ford will retain its highly profitable leadership in the full-size pickup market, CEO Mark Fields said Tuesday morning as the first of the new, aluminum-bodied trucks rolled off the assembly line.

Ford is taking what many observers have called its biggest risk in decades switching from a traditional, steel-bodied pickup to one that uses an “aluminum-intensive” design. But the benefits, Ford officials stressed, are numerous: better fuel economy, improved towing and larger payload capacity, among them.

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“We said this was going to transform this industry,” said Fields, as he stood by the first “saleable” 2015 Ford F-150 to roll off the line at the Dearborn Truck Plant near Detroit. “The proof is this first vehicle.” (more…)

Ford Launches Production of New Aluminum F-150

Maker takes biggest bet in decades.

by on Nov.11, 2014

The 2015 Ford F-150 and its aluminum body represent a significant gamble by the automaker.

It might seem like just another day at the big assembly plant, the full-size F-150 pickups rolling down the line at a steady pace. But a closer look reveals that these aren’t any ordinary trucks; they’re the new aluminum-bodied models that comprise one of the biggest bets Ford Motor Co. has placed in years.

Pressed by both regulators and consumers alike to improve fuel economy, automakers are turning to a variety of solutions, including what the industry likes to call “lightweighting.” And by switching from conventional steel bodies to aluminum, Ford engineers were able to trim as much as 750 pounds of mass from some F-150 models. That is expected to yield significant improvements in mileage when the EPA formally confirms tests on the new truck.

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Ford is betting that better mileage and other improvements to the F-150’s design will enhance the appeal of what is already the best-selling vehicle in the U.S. market. Ford produced a total of 647,697 of the trucks last year. Add heavy-duty models such as the F-250 and F-350 and Ford sold about 100,000 more pickups than its nearest competitor, General Motors, in 2013. (more…)

Ford Pitches Innovation as it Prepares Launch of Aluminum F-150 Pickup

But nagging concerns remain.

by on Aug.14, 2014

It all adds up - the new sliding rear window on the 2015 F-150 saves about a pound.

(The story has been updated to include results of a new survey of pickup owners.)

Ford Motor Co. is so eager to show off the innovations and weight-savings built into its aluminum-bodied 2015 F-150 pickup, it held a press conference to show off a new sliding rear window that saved just slightly less than one pound.

The maker is racing to get ready for the launch of the new truck and knows there are plenty of concerns about the switch to an “aluminum-intensive” body – made all the more of a challenge by a fire that destroyed a prototype of its next-generation heavy duty pickups, expected to switch to the lightweight metal a year after the launch of the half-ton F-150.

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The 2015 pickup will be as much as 700 pounds lighter than the old, steel-bodied F-150, much of that due to the switch to aluminum. But Ford also has cut mass in a number of areas, large and small. That includes the use of a new “seamless” sliding rear window developed in a collaboration with Canadian-mega-supplier Magna International, noted the appropriately named Noah Mass, the Ford engineering manager responsible for sliding windows and sunroofs.

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Designers, Engineers Put Premium on “Lightweighting”

Aluminum, plastics and composites considered critical to meeting new fuel economy rules.

by on Aug.08, 2014

Ford's new F-150 will trim as much as 750 pounds by switching to an "aluminum-intensive" body.

Faced with tough new fuel economy standards that will climb to 54.5 mpg over the next decade, “lightweighting” has become the strategy of choice for automotive designers and engineers, according to a new survey.

The upcoming launch of the “aluminum-intensive” Ford F-150 pickup is just one of the many examples of how manufacturers are putting their vehicles on a diet and gaining significant improvements in fuel economy as a result.

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“The automotive industry is racing to develop safe, fun and affordable vehicles that are much more fuel efficient and produce far fewer emissions,” said Pat Lindner, president of DuPont Performance Polymers, which conducted the survey that was released during the annual Management Briefing Seminars in Traverse City, Michigan.

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Most Pickups Will Adopt Aluminum Bodies, Says Study

But many planners are taking a wait-and-see approach as Ford launches new aluminum F-150.

by on Jun.10, 2014

Ford's new F-150 will be up to 700 pounds lighter than the outgoing pickup truck. Photo credit: Len Katz.

When the new Ford F-150 comes to market later this year it could usher in a dramatic transformation, according to auto industry leaders, who forecast that more than 75% of all pickups will migrate to aluminum bodies over the next decade.

The payoff could be substantial in terms of both performance and capacity, as well as fuel economy, according to the report by the consulting and research firm Ducker Worldwide. The general rule of thumb is that mileage improves an average 1 mpg for every 100 pounds of weight reduction, and in the case of the new 2015 F-150, Ford expects to save up to 700 pounds per truck.

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“The numbers tell a powerful story of aluminum’s explosive growth across the automotive sector,” said Tom Boney, chairman of the Aluminum Association’s Aluminum Transportation Group, which commissioned the new report.

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