Crain News Service
DETROIT - Delphi Automotive Systems Corp.'s much-heralded Super Plug plastic door module has had a brush with kryptonite.
When the Super Plug was introduced in 1995, it was received several top industry honors. But now, Delphi plans to retreat to a metal-and-plastic version for its next generation of door modules.
'It seems better to use different types of materials than to stay with all plastic,' said Gary Nordberg, manager of modular doors for Delphi, based in Troy, Mich. 'We want the steel in the modules for product integrity and side-impact safety. We've learned more over time.'
The Super Plug caught the plastics industry's attention as the first one-piece interior door module made entirely of composite thermoplastics.
Delphi claimed the module consolidated up to 61 parts by eliminating fasteners and screws. The module provided a carrier to hold other door parts, such as window regulator plates, wire harnesses and speaker mounts.
Delphi worked on development both with General Motors and GE Plastics, which provided the special glass-reinforced polycarbonate/polyester blend used to make the door panel.
EASIER TO SOURCE
But Delphi now is shying away from engineered resins and moving to commodity materials, such as polypropylene and polyester, on future programs, said Becky Farless, Delphi engineering group manager for modular door systems.
'We've made a shift to more standard material,' she said. 'It helps us find it globally and at a good price.'
Even as the supplier moves away from Super Plug, Delphi has launched new door-module business. The company has been awarded new contracts worth about $558 million with truckmakers Navistar International Corp. of Chicago and MAN of Grospetersdorf, Austria, and several major carmakers.
Those programs, which will include a metal-and-plastic door module, will start within the next eight months, Nordberg said. Delphi will mold, stamp and assemble the modules at plants worldwide, including factories in Columbus, Ohio, and Adrian, Mich.
SEVERAL CURRENT MODELS
The new modules still will eliminate up to 70 percent of the fasteners and components of a conventional door system, Nordberg said.
The company will use a combination of injection/compression molding to make the thermoplastic components of the modular door carrier. Glass and latching subsystems then are added into the door before the wiring and other components are attached, Farless said. The entire piece slips into the door cavity on an assembly line.
The Super Plug is used on several 1999 car models, including the Chevrolet Malibu, and some 1999 GM minivans, including the Chevrolet Venture and Oldsmobile Silhouette.
Interior-systems supplier Lear Corp. also has been developing a plastic door module that it introduced as a concept in 1997. Lear calls its approach the One-Step Door Module.