Special Coverage

Frankfurt Auto Show

FRANKFURT – Plastic Omnium and Novelis see efforts to make vehicles lighter as an opportunity to move their exterior-parts-making business inside the car.

Plastic Omnium, the leading supplier of plastic bumpers and exterior body panels, has been moving into the composite business for several years, starting with a venture and then purchase of Inoplast, which makes composite liftgates.

Now the company is proposing composite structural parts such as B-pillars.

Mark Szulewicz, president of Plastic Omnium Automotive Exteriors, tells WardsAuto here that the company has two projects in development, the first arriving in 2013.

Not every car maker will be like BMW and establish their own carbon-fiber subsidiary, he says.

“We have to be involved at the very start of a project and work closely with the OEM. We can’t handle 10 or 12 at once, but four or five would be nice.”

Novelis Vice President-Global Automotive Roland Harings says in a presentation to journalists that his company has developed a strong but formable aluminum alloy for exterior skins that it calls AC600.

The material’s mechanical properties allow it to be formed to make structural parts now made from steel stampings.

Without revealing details, Harings says Novaris is developing at least one structural project with a client.

Over the next seven to eight years, Harings says, automotive demand for sheet aluminum will grow by 15% a year.

Auto makers have done most of the light-weighting they can achieve with high-strength steel, he says.

Meeting new fuel-efficiency goals means the industry must turn to more-expensive solutions.