"There's a continued pull for lightweighting," Krull said of the industry trend. "For the most part, that's based on changing powertrain architectures going to electrification.
"We see the biggest demand for lightweighting in areas high up in the vehicle," he said, referring to vehicle roofs.
If suppliers can help automakers take weight out of the roof and rear body area, the gain "allows for downsizing of the powertrain and can offset the new features being added to vehicles," he said.
A recent study from the Center for Automotive Research in Ann Arbor, Mich., concluded that by using a mixture of materials in the construction of the roof, automakers could reduce a vehicle's weight by up to 30 percent.
The study calculated that using aluminum and carbon fiber roof panels would achieve a 40 percent reduction in mass.
Abhay Vadhavkar, co-author of the study and the center's director of materials and manufacturing technology, told Automotive News that a 40 percent mass reduction of the roof subsystem would translate into an overall weight reduction of 25 to 30 percent for the body in white.
Chellman, an expert in multimaterial joining, said that larger body-in-white panels, such as the roof, are now being targeted for lightweighting by some customers.
"The next obvious step is mixed-material joining," Vadhavkar said.