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.
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