Every stakeholder in automotive design and production recognizes vehicles are safer, longer-lasting and more affordable to own when repairers have all of the information they need to perform complete, high-quality repairs. This is why the Steel Market Development Institute (SMDI) and its North American steel industry investor companies work closely with OEMs and the repair industry to help design repairability into vehicles.
Automakers and repairers are aware of the central role steel plays in automotive design and occupant protection. But as steel has evolved through the introduction and use of advanced high-strength steels (AHSS) and new ultra high-strength steels (UHSS), it has become more imperative for engineers designing new vehicles and the repairers who will someday need to get them back on the road to learn more about working with those new steels.
One centerpiece for this education is SMDI’s annual “Great Designs in Steel,” the most respected forum for engineers on the subject of automotive steels. No other event in the world brings together the automotive and steel industries in one place like Great Designs in Steel and SMDI recognizes there’s a critical connection between design and repairability. This is why SMDI wanted to ensure steel-related repairability was strongly represented at the 2018 event, inviting I-CAR’s Director of Industry Technical Relations, Jason Bartanen, to speak. In addition, during the same time period, SMDI held a related repairability summit between key stakeholders at its Detroit-area headquarters focusing on welding applications and repairability considerations.
Repairability isn’t just about the design and engineering of a vehicle; it also depends on how the information is provided to repairers. Bartanen’s presentation to an audience of OEM and supplier engineers and designers expanded on a presentation from 2017 which detailed how to identify materials, guidelines for repairability, standardization and continuation of repair information types and improved alignment/standardization of attachment methods for collision repairers. In 2018, Bartanen continued the discussion, focusing on the ways automakers could help improve the information flow to repairers on steel-related issues, which he noted would increase repair quality, improve customer experience and lower the consumer’s total cost of ownership.
In addition to consumer satisfaction and total cost of ownership it is important to recognize repairability has a significant environmental sustainability factor as well. Repairing a vehicle and keeping it on the road spreads the environmental impact of its manufacture – and disposal/recycling – over a longer productive lifespan improving any analysis of its lifecycle cost. This is another factor in which steel provides unexpected environmental benefits over competing, harder-to-repair automotive materials.