Crain News Service
Decoma International Inc. has joined a supplier team assembled by DaimlerChrysler AG to make a vehicle encased in structural plastic.
Decoma, of Concord, Ontario, will work with injection molder Cascade Engineering Inc. of Grand Rapids, Mich. They will experiment with processes to mold four-piece body panels for a lightweight vehicle of the future. Cascade specializes in production of large parts.
The much-ballyhooed experimental small-car prototype, known as the Composite Concept Vehicle, will be a test bed by the carmaker to build one of the world's first vehicles with a plastic body shell. The carmaker plans to make a plastic-bodied car for mature markets such as North America and Europe.
Current plastic-bodied cars have impact-resistant, hanging steel sheets underneath. Chrysler's project would eliminate that structural steel.
Decoma will help the team develop quick and inexpensive prototype molds for the massive body panels, said Larry Oswald, executive engineer for advanced body engineering with DaimlerChrysler's Liberty & Technical Affairs test center in Madison Heights, Mich. In addition, the supplier will help run a parts tryout center that DaimlerChrysler plans to start using in July.
The team still needs to tackle such issues as surface quality and impact resistance, Oswald said. Currently, to meet federal impact standards, the group is considering some type of metal or composite reinforcement in the body.
DaimlerChrysler would like to avoid that option, Oswald said. 'We want plastic to do as much of the work as possible,' he said. 'We don't want to add extra mass or slow down the processing time.'
No target production date has been set, he added.
Decoma is a separate, publicly traded entity; majority ownership is held by Decoma's creator, Magna International Inc. of Aurora, Ontario.