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

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems
its decision time for fords 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, wonderful......so 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 fiber....you 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!

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    • 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.

  • MaintenanceCosts We hear endlessly from the usual suspects about the scenarios where EVs don't work as well as gas cars. We never hear the opposite side of the coin. From an EV owner (since 2019) who has a second EV reserved, here are a few points the "I road trip 1000 miles every day" crowd won't tell you about:[list][*]When you have a convenient charging situation, EV fueling is more convenient than a gas car. There is no stopping at gas stations and you start every day with a full tank.[/*][*]Where there are no-idling rules (school pickup/dropoff, lines for ferries or services, city loading, whatever else) you can keep warm or cool to your heart's content in your EV.[/*][*]In the cold, EVs will give you heat from the second you turn them on.[/*][*]EVs don't care one bit if you use them for tons of very short trips. Their mechanicals don't need to boil off condensation. (Just tonight, I used my EV to drive six blocks, because it was 31 degrees and raining, and walking would have been unpleasant.)[/*][*]EVs don't stink and don't make you breathe carcinogens on cold start.[/*][*]EV maintenance is much less frequent and much cheaper, eliminating almost all items having to do with engine, transmission, or brakes in a gas car. In most EVs the maintenance schedule consists of battery coolant changes and tire maintenance.[/*][*]You can accelerate fast in EVs without noisily attracting the attention of the cops and every passerby on the street.[/*][/list]
  • MaintenanceCosts Still can't get a RAV4 Prime for love or money. Availability of normal hybrid RAV4s and Highlanders is only slightly better. At least around here I think Toyota could sell twice the number of vehicles that they are actually bringing in at the moment.
  • Tree Trunk Been in the market for a new Highlander Hybrid, it is sold out with order time of 6 months plus. Probably would have bit the bullet if it was not for the dealers the refuse to take an order but instead want to sell from allotment whether it fits or not and at thousands over MRSP.
  • AKHusky The expense argument is nonsense. My mach e was $42k after tax credit. Basically the same as similarly equipped edge. And it completely ignores that the best selling vehicles are Rams, F150s, and Silverados, all more expensive that a bolt, MAch e or ID4. As an owner, I'd say they are still in second car territory for most places in the country.
  • Johnster I live in a red state and I see quite a few EVs being purchased by conservative, upper-class Republicans (many of them Trump-supporters). I suspect that it is a way for them to flaunt their wealth and that, over time, the preference for EVs will trickle down to less well-off Republicans.
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