We’ve seen more change in vehicle structures technologies over the past 10 years than we had ever seen before. The growth of Advanced High Strength Steel (AHSS), the number of aluminum-intensive vehicles and the expanded use of carbon fiber and other composites are significant factors in how we repair today’s vehicles. Historically, we’ve been focusing on either a “steel vehicle” or an “aluminum-intensive vehicle” – that is going to change, significantly, over the next several years. The landscape of collision repair will continue to change, rapidly, and we must keep pace to ensure complete, safe, quality repairs. Soon, we’ll be working on mixed-material vehicles that will require access to information, new tools, equipment, techniques, proper training, and a new skill set.
|The Cadillac CT6 used a significant amount of aluminum and steel in the vehicle structure.|
There are at least a couple of factors that have gone into the extensive changes we’re seeing in today’s vehicles; most significantly weight reduction and safety. The vehicle makers are in a daily struggle against two opposing forces. How do they add all of the safety and ‘creature comfort’ items that customers demand, while meeting stringent (and getting more stringent) Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFÉ) requirements? The array of options on today’s vehicles is vast: heated and cooled seats, rear-seat infotainment systems, center console coolers, and even vacuums are just a few of the options available on an increasing number of vehicles. Add to that the significant number of Advanced Driver Assist Systems (ADAS) such as adaptive cruise control, lane keep assist, blind spot monitoring, active park assist, and many others, and the vehicle makers have a weight problem. All of these options, the computers electronics to run many of them, and the wiring that powers them, all add a significant amount of weight to the vehicle.
At the same time, the vehicle makers also have to design stronger vehicles to protect vehicle occupants. The new Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) 25 percent small overlap crash test has posed a significant challenge to the vehicle makers. When the test was first released, many vehicles yielded dismal results. The vehicle makers quickly scrambled and re-engineered their model line up to be more successful in the new crash test. Design changes, including additional reinforcements, again added some weight to the vehicle.
|Notice the extensive use of aluminum castings, stamping and extrusions, as well as ultra-high-strength steel (UHSS), in the side aperature of the Cadillac CT6.|
All of the weight that is added to the vehicle, adversely affects the fuel economy, imposed by government regulations, the vehicle makers must meet. Vehicle makers have a few options for reducing that weight:
Build smaller vehicles. While we’ve seen a significant increase in the number of small cars on the market, trucks, SUVs, and crossovers continue to be some of the most popular vehicles on the roads of America. The vehicle makers must produce a significant number of these smaller vehicles to offset the sales of larger vehicles, to meet their CAFÉ requirements.