Suppliers reveal more plastic-intensive products

The auto industry is increasing its interest in plastics, as automakers and suppliers debuted a series of polymer-intensive machines and components during the Frankfurt auto show.

Terrorist attacks in New York and Washington on Sept. 11 cast a cloud over events, with organizers canceling an opening ceremony and companies curtailing news conferences, but the public show otherwise went on as planned.

Systems making their debut ranged from a four-door version of DaimlerChrysler AG's smart car, with its thermoplastic, molded-in-color panels, to instrument clusters and electronic connectors.

Visteon innovation

Visteon Corp. rolled out its molding program for vehicle cockpits, the Visteon laminate insert molding, or VLIM, which it says can reduce part complexity and increase styling options for plastic-based interiors.

"VLIM will allow us to provide our customers with flexible interior panels that are softer, lighter, recyclable and allow for two-tone and multiple grains and textures," said Tom Burke, Visteon's vice president of European operations.

The technique places a laminated skin into a vertical press, then molds the olefin substrate onto the skin.

Johnson Controls Inc. debuted a concept car interior with an in-mold graining procedure it said can be used to provide uniform graining on cockpit surfaces. JCI also pointed to its plastic cargo systems, first introduced in North America, while also showing off prospects for interiors, including the graining program on the Etimos concept.

Models of the smart car, made by DaimlerChrysler subsidiary Micro Compact Car GmbH, were unveiled, complete with the plastic body panels the company has used since the first smarts hit the streets four years ago.

The Tridion 4, the company said, has four seats, defying the belief that the company could not reproduce the smart system in a larger vehicle than its benchmark two-seat model.

"This shows the potential of the brand and makes it clear that a car with four seats and five doors can also have all the typical features of a Smart," the company said at its

Sept. 11 unveiling.

Siemens united

Siemens VDO Automotive AG used the Frankfurt event to make its bow as a newly united company. Siemens Automotive took over Mannesmann VDO AG this year.

The combination, officials said, can allow the company to produce a wider range of products, including a navigation system with a head-up display for BMW vehicles that also use instrument clusters molded by VDO.

Interior specialist Lear Corp. of Southfield, Mich., focused on its electronics capabilities and showed off programs for doors, floors, cockpits and overhead systems, most of them designed to integrate electronics with functional operations.

Lear said the 2002 Jaguar X-400 will have a Lear flooring system that is made with an extruded acoustics

program to improve sound performance.

You can reach Rhoda Miel at rmiel@crain.com

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