GM Showcases Strategy to Make New Vehicles Lighter

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Fuel prices are creeping up across the country again. With the days of gasoline less than $2 a gallon a distant memory, new-vehicle buyers are once again looking at fuel economy ratings when purchasing. The demand for fuel-efficient vehicles keeps automakers such as GM working hard to find new ways to boost mpg numbers.

GM recently invited journalists to its Technical Center in Warren, Mich., to get a look at one area in which the company is focusing its efforts: lightweighting. This isn't a euphemism for not being able to hold your liquor; this is an all-out effort by the entire company to lighten new cars and trucks under development. It requires effort at every step of vehicle development — from goal setting and determining how a vehicle needs to perform, to computer modeling and material selection, to manufacturing methods and designing special tools. But most important is drumming home the idea to the hundreds of engineers tasked with developing new vehicles that every gram matters.

To accomplish GM's lightweighting goals, engineers use computer-aided simulation to design pieces of the vehicle's structure out of different metals to see how they'll perform before any parts are built. Smaller efforts such as scalloping the edges of welds and punching lightening holes in structural panels save small amounts per part, but add up to big savings for a whole vehicle. Extensive use of aluminum, several kinds of high-strength steel and magnesium allows for more creative part consolidation, while new bonding techniques are replacing welding with structural adhesive (yes, glue) and rivets. Even welding is getting attention from GM's research and development groups; the company says it's found a way to successfully spot-weld aluminum to steel — something never before accomplished in an automotive application.

The results are new cars that aren't just a little bit lighter than the ones they replace, but significantly lighter. The 2016 Chevrolet Malibu is 300 pounds lighter than the outgoing model despite being a bigger car, thanks to the above techniques. The Cadillac CT6, a car the size of a BMW 7 Series, weighs considerably less than the smaller BMW 5 Series, and includes a variety of materials. The new Chevy Volt is almost 250 pounds lighter than the first-generation model, and the upcoming 2017 Buick LaCrosse is almost 700 pounds lighter than its predecessor. That's like taking two full-sized linebackers out of your backseat.

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So what does this mean for the next generation of GM pickup trucks? Although they declined to talk specifics about the next Silverado and Sierra, GM representatives offered some clues as to what to expect. The GM presentation spotlighted flexibility: employing different materials where they can best be used. Flexibility is evident in the Cadillac CT6's structure — lightweight extruded aluminum (also valued for its predictable deformation properties) are used for the front and side frame rails, but high-strength steel is used for the "safety cage" that surrounds passengers. The CT6 also uses aluminum on some body panels but steel in the floor due to its sound-absorption properties. And the ability to weld steel-to-steel, aluminum-to-aluminum and soon aluminum-to-steel using the same welding gun on the assembly line allows for even more flexibility in using the right materials in the right spot.

What we can infer from this is that the next full-size GM pickups will not duplicate Ford's efforts by going to an almost entirely aluminum body on a steel chassis. Doing so required more effort at Ford than just designing something new; it required a total tear-up of a number of production systems along with production plants. Instead, we're more likely to see the next Silverado look like the CT6 underneath — a mix of materials fashioned to take weight out of every component and panel. The benefit is that building such a truck won't require a complete tear-up of the Silverado assembly plant to put in new equipment. A mixed-material vehicle can be built on the same line as the current mostly steel one. We're eager to see what GM cooks up for the next big trucks when the new ones arrive, given the automaker's recent achievements in making its latest products far lighter than the outgoing ones.

Cars.com photos by Aaron D. Bragman; manufacturer images

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Comments

Ford guys pay attention, this is technology.

I assisted GM when they were running tests on the interactions between dissimilar metals. I now see where those tests are paying off with the creation of superior light weight products.

Haha! Just kidding, GM is junk.

I see a lot of body shop issues in the near future. Nothing like having aluminum and steel rubbing on each other let alone a bodyshop welding new sheet metal to aluminum together. Sounds good on paper but I fear the real world experiance. Nobody can resolve rust on sheet metal, now we are welding dissimilar metals.

@PUTC never have so many words said so little. These techniques have been "in engineering" for decades. The aerospace industry was doing virtually all of these things in 1950s.

Topping the list is Aaron's comment that 700 pounds equals two "full sized linebackers."

You can examine every roster of every NFL team since day one -- there has NEVER been a 350 pound linebacker of any sort. Typical linebackers go between 220-250 pounds, by the way.

I see a lot of body shop issues in the near future. Nothing like having aluminum and steel rubbing on each other let alone a bodyshop welding new sheet metal to aluminum together. Sounds good on paper but I fear the real world experiance. Nobody can resolve rust on sheet metal, now we are welding dissimilar metals.

Posted by: LMAO | May 26, 2016 7:53:43 AM

I agree, but realistically, only surface scratches ever get repaired anymore. Body panels just get changed out.

@LMAO your concern about rust is overstated.

There are any number of practical ways to pacify carbon steel.

The auto industry was doing this in the 1930s. Look up the Parker Rust Proof Corp. in Detroit.

They invented several distinct processes for making steel rust proof.

I agree, but realistically, only surface scratches ever get repaired anymore. Body panels just get changed out.

Posted by: GMSRGREAT | May 26, 2016 7:58:33 AM

That mainly my point with changing body panels. I have seen so many repairs at bodyshops where they weld in new structure or panels and you can see the coating getting burned off. Nothing is the same after a bodyshop repair and now you have two different metals. All you GM girls and fiat losers are talking a great the full aluminum F150 and special tools to work on the body, now GM's solution is the latest and greatest tech. Maybe I am wrong but I see danger ahead.

We can thank the stringent FE standards for trucks for this.

Really, pay attention to aluminum? Pay attention to 2 brands that cannot over take 1?

Papajim, why is rust still an issue.I heard a few months ago the Silverado is having rust issues behind the tail lights. New trucks.

Yikes. Better be shopping for your GM trucks now before they start building these nightmares. Mixing body panel materials and welding them together? I thought Ford had problems with their all aluminum solution, and how repair shops would cope. This will be an expensive lesson for new buyers. Also, with how the materials react differently with temperature changes, I can image lots of noisy, creaky, trucks after a couple years. Lots of stress pulling out of a garage into sub freezing temps, and then the reverse when you get home.

"Extensive use of aluminum, several kinds of high-strength steel and magnesium allows for more creative part consolidation, while new bonding techniques are replacing welding with structural adhesive (yes, glue) and rivets."

Rut roh, extensive use of aluminum and adhesive and rivets. Where have I heard that before? I just don't know if I want the new 2015 Silverado, plus the insurance rates will increase cause its higher cost to repair aluminum. LMAO!!!!!!!

I see GM is back to copying FORD and once they do the GM fanbois wont have any more problems with aluminum! Some things NEVER CHANGE!

*2018 Silverado.

Why not use carbon fiber and xenoy, both materials are light weight, rust proof, and can be formed in any shape. Fighter planes have been using xenoy for years and Honda and Husqvarna have been using it for years on some lawn mower decks. Steel can still be used for frames and the internal structure of the cab along with aluminum. It seems that carbon fiber and xenoy would be a good material for body panels and for truck beds.

The easiest way for GM to advance their game is to emulate FORD.

You're welcome.

@LMAO

It's not an issue, except in your mind.

My 2009 Silverado is totally rust free. I defy you to find rust anywhere on it. The silver-birch paint looks like the day it was made.

The shiny spots are still shiny, the matte spots are still matte. The plastic is still plastic and the spray in bedliner is still rougher than a stucco bathtub.

It has never spent the night in a garage.

The best way to advance is to learn from others successes and failures. The Japanese built their auto industry on lessons learned from the US, British, and German auto industry.

I'll keep my 2014 Hemi Ram 2500 HD Thank You!

I still think Ford did the right thing on their trucks. A mix of metals isn't going to be as good as going all aluminum body. We shall see though. I doubt the money GM will save will be reflected in the cost of the vehicle so who cares if they don't have to tear apart their factory's. Their current trucks are hardly any cheaper than a new F150.

So when will GM go bankrupt again?

I don't think it is just an issue of cost for GM in not going to all aluminum but it is also the amount of time a plant is shut down to convert over to all aluminum. It was a learning curve for Ford but along with the learning Ford learned how to make a smoother transition to aluminum which it will use in its HD truck plants conversions. This will be a much smoother transition for Ford.

Dear GM,

Please stop copying Ford.

Sincerely,

Ford.

That picture of the truck box looks like a Ford, especially the tail light shape.

Oh, Look! The nay-saying company, the pooh-pooh them because they beat us again company is joining the movement and going to aluminum! Once again, GM trails the leaders. Remember whatshisname running down the heated steering wheel that GM finally came out with a couple of years later? As usual, GM is a day late, dollar short. Kudos for finally owning up to the need to go lighter but stronger. Now, if they'd just learn to tout their strengths in their ads instead of going negative so much. But, then, I guess when you're late to the dance yet again....

LMAO

It's not an issue, except in your mind.

My 2009 Silverado is totally rust free. I defy you to find rust anywhere on it. The silver-birch paint looks like the day it was made.

The shiny spots are still shiny, the matte spots are still matte. The plastic is still plastic and the spray in bedliner is still rougher than a stucco bathtub.

It has never spent the night in a garage.


Posted by: papajim | May 26, 2016 9:03:39 AM

You live in the south, try up north where they put everything caustic they can on the roads during the winter. Please think about what you reply back with because just because you have no rust on your southern truck does not mean the North does not have any rust either.

Reducing the size by about 30% should reduce the weight about 25%... as long as you're not trying to take the weight out of the bed alone.

You have to remember that Ford did not go to aluminum because of rust issues. Weight reduction while maintaining higher tensile strength. The focus for all truck manufacturers is on weight reduction for improved fuel economy.

@RoadWhale--With smaller engines less space is required. The length on the front can easily be shortened without sacrificing cab and bed room.

Its called follow the leader Boys LMAO!!!!! Something GM has
done since there Inception.

Excerpt from the article:

but high-strength steel is used for the "safety cage" that surrounds passengers.

Some of you Ford turds are gonna have to eat crow for claiming that GM is going all aluminum with the next Silverado. Those GM commercials comparing steel and aluminum was about the safety cage. You need to pay attention more.


Posted by: GMSRGREAT | May 26, 2016 10:44:37 AM

Nobody friggin cares what you have to say. Go AWAY TRVLL

GM will most likely continue to use some steel especially for the "safety cage" and frame. Each material has its strengths and weaknesses. Even Ford will use steel for frames.

Nobody friggin cares what you have to say. Go AWAY TRVLL

Posted by: Frank | May 26, 2016 11:01:43 AM

Will it is barbecue season, maybe that crow will taste better with some sauce on it. Let us know. LMAO!

What a GM joke. Heinz 57 pickup truck. LOL

You know the Ford people would bear a cow if GM decided to go aluminum. So GM is testing other lighter metals and alloys and other material instead. I think if fuel economy wasn't a big deal GM and even Ford would've kept making steel trucks. Eventually we'd be driving little plastic Hot Wheels cars regardless of manufacturer if regulators get their way.

@liam, thats what GM is now, the whole inside of the truck is all plastic, made from oil, the same people that had a hand in bankrupting them, well ok, it was GM who dumped all their eggs into the truck basket and lost, kinda like what they are doing now, lets hope the oil prices dont go through the roof

Frank
G.M. introduced electric start and head lights, air conditioner (under the hood in dash as we have today) , overhead valves and automatic transmissions first to the N A auto industry. Those items are found on nearly every new vehicle made today. What did Ford first contribute that is on most every new vehicle made today?

@LMAO

like I said: Look up the Parker Rust Proof Corp. in Detroit.

They invented several distinct processes for making steel rust proof. Their stuff works in the North and South. It was used on tanks in WW2.

It just works. You worry too much. Have fun. Pack a picnic lunch. Drink a beer or 2.

Rust?

Ask Toyota on rust experience they klnow rust very well. They are so good anything they install on truck will rust plus the truck itself no need to recycle.

@ papajim

"two full sized linebackers" = 700 lbs? I was thinking the same,

700 lbs is more like 2 VERY full-sized offensive linemen.

But we get the point Aaron Bragman.

Exclusive: Chrysler's Ram pickup may stick with steel through 2020 - sources

Chrysler Group [CHRY.UL] is planning an extensive facelift of its full-size Ram 1500 pickup in spring 2017, but has no firm plans to follow rivals General Motors and Ford Motor Co in replacing steel body panels with aluminum until a complete redesign after 2020, industry sources told Reuters.

While Ford and GM are shifting to lighter aluminum body panels to dramatically reduce the weight of their best-selling full-size pickups - this fall and in the fall of 2018, respectively - Chrysler is planning to stick mainly with steel when it updates the big Ram pickup in 2017, according to two sources familiar with the automakers' plans.

Chrysler is thereby sidestepping the risk of alienating commercial users, many of which believe steel is more rugged and durable than aluminum, as well as foregoing the additional investment of converting many steel parts to aluminum, as Ford and GM are doing.

The two larger automakers can spread the investment over more vehicles. Ford sells nearly twice as many pickups as Chrysler, which is a unit of Italy's Fiat SpA.

All three automakers are dependent on big trucks and SUVs for the lion's share of their profits. At Chrysler, those vehicles account for nearly 100 percent of pretax earnings.

Fiat Chief Executive Sergio Marchionne, who also heads Chrysler, told investors in May that the use of weight-saving aluminum at Chrysler "is better suited in other vehicles than pickup trucks."

At the time, Chrysler confirmed that it would update the light-duty Ram 1500 in 2017. The current Ram 1500 was introduced in late 2008 as a 2009 model and has received several significant upgrades since then.

However, the five-year future product plan shared with investors in May made no mention of when the Ram would receive a full redesign.

Industry sources familiar with the company's plans said Chrysler is not likely to undertake a full redesign of the Ram before 2021 at the earliest.

Chrysler spokesman Rick Deneau on Thursday said: "We can't comment beyond what was in the five-year plan."

Asked as to whether or when Chrysler might incorporate more aluminum in future versions of the Ram, he said "we haven't made any decisions."

http://www.reuters.com/article/us-autos-chrysler-trucks-idUSKBN0GL29L20140821

Looking at the next gen info on the #1 truck maker GM, and they will still be using lots of steel and saving millions on the plant floors and still weight less then the all beer can Fords. Something Ford wished they could of done HAHAHAHA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

In the interest of complete accuracy it should be noted that Mazda has been welding aluminum to steel on the Miata for years. Keeping the two metals from eating each other is the hard part.

"punching lightening holes in structural panels"


Yep. GM will still be using lots of paper thin steel, now with holes in it.

@johnny blow, who doesnt know his own brands.......You mentioned GM the number 1 truck maker, dont they make other things? Or is it just trucks? just checking your loyalty.


G.M. introduced electric start and head lights, air conditioner (under the hood in dash as we have today) , overhead valves and automatic transmissions first to the N A auto industry. Those items are found on nearly every new vehicle made today. What did Ford first contribute that is on most every new vehicle made today?


Posted by: Jake D | May 26, 2016 12:40:25 PM Some more GM innovations...1909 - Cadillac offers the world's first limousine....1912 - Cadillac offers the Delco Electric Self-Starter........1915 - Cadillac produced the first full-armored car........1924 - Cadillac pioneered the use of fast-drying Duco lacquer paints and offer over 500 color combinations while most competitors only offered black.
...........1930 - Cadillac produces the world's first V-type 16-cylinder engine for passenger cars..........1938 - Cadillac introduces the first sunroofs in America...........1940 - Cadillac introduces the first fully automatic transmission: ............1949 - The Cadillac Coupe DeVille introduced the world's first pillarless two-door hard top body style; Cadillac created their first overhead valve, high-compression V8 engine with 160 horsepower from 331 cubic inches.
1953 - The Cadillac Eldorado, America's dream car for a record 23 years, was introduced with the industry's first wrap-around windshield, the first signal-seeking automotive radio, and the Autronic Eye - the first automatic headlight dimmer. Other innovations were leather upholstery and chrome wire wheels. .
.........1969 - Cadillac introduces the industry's first closed cooling system...........1974 - Cadillac pioneered the use of the air cushion restraint (air bag) system..............1975 - Cadillac becomes the first U.S. auto manufacturer to install electronic fuel injection and introduces the catalytic converter.........1978 - Cadillac becomes the first auto manufacturer to test digital computerization in cars. ......
1990 - The Cadillac Allante becomes the first front-wheel drive vehicle with electronic traction control.
.........that's just the Cadillac division of GM.
...............

Jake D

Ford introduced everything except the items you mentioned. Without Ford, there'd be no GM.

G M’s new welding technology will save them a lot of money and make them a lot by selling the rights to use it to others. This technology will not only be a major contribution to the auto industry but by many other industries such as computers, house hold appliances, etc.

Do fries come with that Chevy shake?

Not fully understanding the Ford fanboys on this one. Looks like GM is taking their own route to me, (and potentially a better one at that). Look for the 2018 GM fullsize trucks to be the lightest in class following in the footsteps of their recent car releases.
Since we're on the subject of who's following who, where is the Ford entry in the mid size truck segment? When they return guess who's lead they will be following.

@johnny blow, who doesnt know his own brands.......You mentioned GM the number 1 truck maker, dont they make other things? Or is it just trucks? just checking your loyalty.


Posted by: Nitro | May 26, 2016 1:44:26 PM

Yep, a clueless TRVLL who doesn't even know it's own product.

Uber Failure.



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