DETROIT -- It's difficult to look disruptive dressed in a tuxedo.
But that's the best description of the supplier executives and engineers who gathered in Detroit last week for the Automotive News PACE Awards.
The awards honor innovation by suppliers. And innovation, which can radically change vehicle technology and production methods, is nothing if not disruptive.
Take aluminum. Bonderite 2798, a 2014 PACE Award winner from Henkel Corp., is a coating that prepares aluminum for paint. The coating allows automakers "to make vehicles with much more aluminum content," Jerry Lavine, Henkel vice president, said at the awards ceremony.
Ford Motor Co. will use aluminum for the 2015 F-150 pickup. More high-volume aluminum vehicles are sure to follow.
One innovation won't mean goodbye to steel, spot welders and much more. But several open up the possibility.
Dow Automotive Systems won a PACE Award for another enabler of aluminum bodies: betamate epoxy, which is used along with rivets to join aluminum parts.
The 20th annual awards were handed out before an audience of more than 450 at the Max M. Fisher Music Center here. The awards are sponsored by EY, the Transportation Research Center Inc. and Automotive News.
Sixteen suppliers won awards in a field of 34 finalists.
The biggest single pattern among this year's honorees was safety. Innovations to make autos safer earned awards for three suppliers.
Continental Automotive won for sensors that help lift the hood to protect pedestrians during a collision.
Hella KGaA Hueck & Co. won for headlights that dim automatically to protect the vision of oncoming drivers.
And Valeo won for a system that gives drivers an extended view of objects behind them while they are backing up.
• Video clips of the winners: autonews.com/pacevideo
Autoliv Inc. won for a technology best described as environmental -- a green airbag inflator -- even though it applies to a safety feature.
The device replaces sodium azide, the so-called pyrotechnics used to inflate many airbags, with hydrogen, oxygen and inert argon gas.
The independent PACE judges also awarded Innovation Partnership awards to six automakers for outstanding collaboration with suppliers.
Volvo Car Corp., for instance, won for its partnership with Autoliv Inc. to develop an airbag installed near the windshield wipers that deploys if a car hits a pedestrian.
"It's all about expanding our heritage of safety -- not only inside the vehicle but outside, too," said Helena Bergstrom Pilo, vice president of body and trim engineering for Volvo.
The other partnership winners: Ford, General Motors, Honda R&D Americas, Paccar and Tesla.
• Autoliv Inc., Vargarda, Sweden: Green airbag inflator
• BASF Corp., Wyandotte. Mich.: High-gloss black interior door switch bezels
• BorgWarner Transmission Systems, Auburn Hills, Mich.: Eco-Launch solenoid valve for transmissions
• Continental Automotive, Auburn Hills, Mich.: Pressure sensor for pedestrian protection
• Delphi Automotive, Warren, Ohio: ErgoMate connector
• Dow Automotive Systems, Auburn Hills, Mich.: Betamate structural adhesive for untreated aluminum
• Federal-Mogul Corp., Wiesbaden, Germany: Lead-free bearings for high-performance engines
• Hella KGaA Hueck & Co., Lippstadt, Germany: LED matrix beam headlights
• Robert Bosch, Farmington Hills, Mich.: Spray enhancements in gasoline direct injection enabled by laser drilling
• Schaeffler Group, Wooster, Ohio: Torque converter with centrifugal pendulum absorber
• Valeo, Bietigheim-Bissingen, Germany: Backup protection
• ZF Friedrichshafen AG, Saarbrucken, Germany: Nine-speed automatic transmission
Manufacturing process and capital equipment
• ArcelorMittal and Magna-Cosma International, Chicago: Laser-welded, hot-stamped door ring
• Henkel Corp., Madison Heights, Mich.: Bonderite 2798 process for coating aluminum
• TI Automotive, Auburn Hills, Mich.: Flexible manufacturing process for blow-molded plastic fuel tanks
• Ford Motor Co. for high-gloss black interior door switch bezels with BASF Corp.
• General Motors for Eco-Launch solenoid valve for transmissions with BorgWarner Transmission Systems
• Honda R&D Americas Inc. for laser-welded, hot-stamped door ring with ArcelorMittal and Magna-Cosma International
• Paccar Inc. for Betamate adhesive for untreated aluminum with Dow Automotive Systems
• Tesla Motors Inc. for Tegra visual computing module with Nvidia Corp.
• Volvo Car Corp. for pedestrian protection airbag with Autoliv Inc.