It's Decision Time for Ford's Carbon Fiber Subframe

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems
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it s decision time for ford s carbon fiber subframe

By the end of the year, you’ll know whether your next front-drive, non-supercar Ford might contain a carbon fiber cradle for its engine. As promised, supplier Magna has delivered a carbon fiber composite subframe prototype to Dearborn, destined for a rigorous life in a Fusion testbed.

There’ll be calculators working overtime as Ford engineers and bean counters figure out whether the lightweight, parts-saving component has a place in the brand’s stable.

Magna first revealed its plans for the co-developed subframe in March 2017. While this isn’t the first time Ford tapped the supplier’s carbon fiber expertise, there’s a vast mass and price difference between the grille opening reinforcement on a pricey model like the Shelby GT500 and a subframe bound for a conventional passenger car.

The supplier’s prototype reduces subframe mass by 34 percent over its steel counterpart. Comprising two molded and four metal parts, the structure replaces 45 steel parts found in a typical Fusion subframe.

“We delivered a series of parts to the customer at the end of last year, and they’ve already started component testing,” Andrew Swikoski, Magna’s global product line director for lightweight composites, told Automotive News. “By the end of the year, we’ll know whether the technology is ready for production or not.”

Swikoski didn’t fully break down the economics of using the pricey material, though he implied Ford customers wouldn’t see a diamond-encrusted markup on the price of a new vehicle. Using Magna’s subframe would cut tooling costs by 30 to 40 percent, he said, and Magna sought to further reduce expense by using several materials in the composite.

Crash testing could be a determining factor in whether the component gets the green light. “It’s not meant to be a primary crash absorber,” Swikoski said, adding that, as the subframe only absorbs 5 percent of a crash’s energy, Ford will rely on the subframe’s steel surroundings for cushioning.

[Image: Magna]

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  • TheEndlessEnigma TheEndlessEnigma on Apr 23, 2018

    Setting: Ford Dealer Service Department Service Advisor: Well sir, we found the issue with your harsh engine vibrations, you have a crack in your engine cradle. Customer: Ok, you can weld that right? How much will it cost? Service Advisor: Err...well....Ford decided that a 20 lb weight reduce would be a fabulous idea so your engine cradle is carbon can't weld that. Customer: Errr.......? Service Advisor: So we have to replace the engine cradle...which means removing the engine, transaxle, cooling system....Sir, we have to disassemble your engine compartment. Customer: Great...wonderful....fabulous. How much will that cost? Service Advisor: Well...sir....I see by your paperwork here you *JUST* drove out of warranty. Do you by any chance have a personal relationship with your mortgage banker? 2nd mortgages are awesome!

    • See 1 previous
    • TheEndlessEnigma TheEndlessEnigma on Apr 27, 2018

      @chaparral And I, as a consumer, will avoid that product. But the, since Ford has decided to stop producing cars Ford will lose me as a customer. There's a reason I don't drive or own a CUV/SUV/Truck. I can afford one of those things but I do not want one of those things.

  • Dantes_inferno Dantes_inferno on Apr 24, 2018

    >It’s Decision Time for Ford’s Carbon Fiber Subframe If the result of that decision is positive, it may inspire Ford to apply carbon fiber to other parts of the car...such as engines and transmissions. No thanks. I'll pass and stick with the actual metals for the time being until I'm dead or the ICE is dead - whichever comes first.

  • Charles When I lived in Los Angeles I saw a 9-5 a few times and instanly admired the sweeping low slug aerodynamic jet tech influenced lines and all that beautiful glass. The car was very different from what I expected from a Saab even though the 900 Turbo was nice. A casual lady friend had a Saab Sonnet, never drove or rode in it but nonetheless chilled my enthusiasm and I eventually forgot about Saabs. In the following years I have had seven Mercedes's, three or four Jaguars even two Daimlers both the 250 V-8 and the massive and powerful Majestic Major. Daily drivers of a brand new 300ZX 2+2 and Lincolns, plus a few diesel trucks. Having moved to my big farm in central New York, trucks and SUV's are the standard, even though I have a Mercedes S500 in one of my barns. Due to circumstances with my Ford Explorer and needing a second driver I found the 2006 9-5 locally. Very little surface rust, none undercarriage, original owner, garage kept, wife driver and all the original literature and a ton of paid receipts and history. The car just turned 200,000 miles and I love it. Feels new like I'm back in my Nissan 300ZX with a lot more European class and ready power with the awesome turbo. So fun to drive, the smooth power and torque is incredible! Great price paid to justify going through the car and giving her everything she needs, i.e., new tires, battery, all shocks, struts, control arms, timing chain and rust removable to come, plus more. The problem now is I want to restore it and likely put it in my concrete barn and only drive in good weather. As to the writer, Alex Dykes, I take great exception calling the 9-5 Saab "ugly," finding myself looking back at her beauty and uniqueness. Moreover, I get new looks from others not quite recognizing, like the days out west with my more expensive European cars. There are Saabs eclipsing 300K rourinely and one at a million miles and I believe one car with 500K on the original engine. So clearly, this is a keeper, in love already with my SportCombi. I want to be in that elite club.
  • Marky S. I own the same C.C. XSE Hybrid AWD as in this article, but in Barcelona Red with the black roof. I love my car for its size, packaging, and the fact that it offers both AWD and Hybrid technology together. Visibility is impressive, as is its small turning circle. I consider the C.C. more of a "station wagon" by proportion, rather than an “SUV.” It is fun to drive, with zippy response and perky pick-up. It is a pleasant car to drive and ride in. It is not trying to be a “Butch Off-Roader”, or a cosseting “Luxury Cruiser.” Those are not its goals or purpose. The Corolla Cross XSE Hybrid AWD is a wonderful All-Purpose Car (O.K. – “SUV” if you must hear me say it!) with a combination of all the features it has at a reasonable price.
  • Ernesto Perez There's a line in the movie Armageddon where Bruce Willis says " is this the best idea NASA came up with?". Don't quote me. I'm asking is this the best idea NY came up with? What's next? Charging pedestrians to walk in certain parts of the city? Every year the price for everything gets more expensive and most of the services we pay for gets worse. Obviously more money is not the solution. What we need are better ideas, strategies and inventions. You want to charge drivers in the city - then put tolls on the free bridges like the Brooklyn, Manhattan and Williamsburg bridges. There's always a better way or product. It's just the idiots on top think they know best.
  • Carsofchaos The bike lanes aren't even close to carrying "more than the car lanes replaced". You clearly don't drive in Midtown Manhattan on a daily like I do.
  • Carsofchaos The problem with congestion, dear friends, is not the cars per se. I drive into the city daily and the problem is this:Your average street in the area used to be 4 lanes. Now it is a bus lane, a bike lane (now you're down to two lanes), then you have delivery trucks double parking, along with the Uber and Lyft drivers also double parking. So your 4 lane avenue is now a 1.5 lane avenue. Do you now see the problem? Congestion pricing will fix none of these things....what it WILL do is fund persion plans.