Carbon Fiber Could Be Coming to a Ford Subframe Near You

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems
carbon fiber could be coming to a ford subframe near you

If you’re worried that your corroded subframe will one day eject your car’s engine or suspension components like a spent hull from an Ithaca pump, the future holds promise. (Though you should still get that undercarriage checked out.)

Ford Motor Company, working with mega supplier Magna International, has developed a prototype vehicle subframe made of carbon fiber-reinforced composites. The goal is to one day offer a subframe that’s impervious to rust, while reducing weight and complexity.

Magna claims the new structure reduces mass by 34 percent and makes do with 87 percent fewer parts.

Instead of the 45 steel parts needed to build a current Ford subframe, the prototype uses just four steel parts, plus two molded composite parts. Adhesive bonding and structural rivets join those two molded components into holy matrimony.

Besides the aforementioned benefits, equipping a vehicle with a carbon-fiber subframe could improve the model’s stiffness and crash performance. Assuming the structure holds up well under durability testing, the only potential drawback would be component cost — though the higher cost of the two composite pieces could be offset by the vast reduction in overall parts.

According to the supplier, the new design aced its performance requirements based on computer-aided engineering analyses. The subframes are now in production, bound for component and vehicle-level testing at Ford.

“Collaboration is the key to success in designing lightweight components that can give our customers fuel economy improvements without compromising ride and handling, durability or safety,” said Mike Whitens, Director of Vehicle Enterprise Systems with Ford Research and Advanced Engineering, in a statement.

He added, “We must continue to work hard to achieve these lightweight solutions at the most affordable costs.”

Next up for the prototypes is a healthy regimen of corrosion, stone chipping and bolt load retention tests, which can’t be performed by computers. While testing is underway, Ford plans to develop a game plan for the component’s manufacturing and assembly process.

The automaker hasn’t said what products would use the new subframe, nor when to expect it on the market. However, it certainly appears that the near future should yield a production model with a carbon fiber truss.

[Image: Ford Motor Company]

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5 of 66 comments
  • Wsn Wsn on Mar 19, 2017

    If rust is the problem, why not use stainless steel? Sure it may cost $10k more at purchase, but almost 100% of that cost can be paid back when it's being sold or scrapped, because stainless steel is highly sought after.

    • See 1 previous
    • NMGOM NMGOM on Mar 20, 2017

      oldworntruck - - - You are absolutely correct. Chloride ions from use of salt on the highways cause something called "stress-corrosion cracking" in stainless steels (SS). When I was working in the abrasives industry years ago, we could not use halide-based grinding accelerants on SS for that very reason. ====================

  • True_Blue True_Blue on Mar 20, 2017

    Ah, the Ithaca Model 37. That's a burly bear. I believe you can "slam-fire" these by depressing the trigger and cycling the action. In 2017, having a 12-gauge named after one of the more liberal regions in New York is fairly ironic. But those 37s are plenty tough.

    • OldManPants OldManPants on Mar 20, 2017

      I read up on it a bit. It's action was designed by, guess who, John Browning and it was introduced to compete with the Winchester Model 12. Cool thing is that it both loads and ejects from the same bottom port so it's left/right hand agnostic. As a lifelong Model 12 devotee I must now try a 37.

  • Tassos ask me if I care.
  • ToolGuy • Nice vehicle, reasonable price, good writeup. I like your ALL CAPS. 🙂"my mid-trim EX tester is saddled with dummy buttons for a function that’s not there"• If you press the Dummy button, does a narcissist show up spouting grandiose comments? Lol.
  • MaintenanceCosts These are everywhere around here. I'm not sure the extra power over a CR-V hybrid is worth the fragile interior materials and the Kia dealership experience.
  • MaintenanceCosts It's such a shame about the unusable ergonomics. I kind of like the looks of this Camaro and by all accounts it's the best-driving of the current generation of ponycars. A manual 2SS would be a really fun toy if only I could see out of it enough to drive safely.
  • ToolGuy Gut feel: It won't sell all that well as a new vehicle, but will be wildly popular in the used market 12.5 years from now.(See FJ Cruiser)