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Auto blogWed, 15 Oct 2014
Carbon fiber has been utilized for decades to build racecars, as a means to cut weight while maintaining strength. But until recently, the space-age material has been largely absent from the street on anything but supercars because of the expense to use it. Recently, BMW signaled a major shift in that trend when it starting using carbon fiber reinforced plastic panels on the i3 and i8. This relatively small scale start might be just the beginning; the German company believes that a breakthrough to inexpensively manufacture the lightweight stuff is just on the horizon.
MAI Carbon Cluster Management GmbH counts BMW, Audi, Airbus, the German government and many other organizations as supporters, and it's researching how to make carbon fiber cheaper to produce, according to Automotive News Europe. The company thinks it can reduce costs by 90 percent in the near future. "We've certainly reached a halfway point on our cost-cutting target for suitable carbon-fiber parts," said project head Klaus Drechsler to Automotive News Europe.
Unfortunately, it isn't entirely clear just what MAI Carbon is doing to make such a huge leap possible. However, a recent post on the company's website talks about a new form a carbon fiber using a thermoplastic matrix that could be cured in less than three minutes. That's compared to about 90 minutes in the traditional process with an autoclave.
Consumer Reports has announced its annual list of worst vehicles, a cringe-inducing contrast to its list of top vehicles. Ignominiously leading the way in 2014 is Chrysler, which has a staggering seven models listed.
Jeep nearly sweeps the small SUV segment by itself, with its Compass, Patriot and 2.4-liter version of the new Cherokee, while the only midsize sedans listed by CR were the Chrysler 200 and Dodge Avenger. The new Dodge Dart and the Dodge Journey round out CR's condemnation of Chrysler.
Ford is taking heat as well, with the Taurus, Edge and their counterparts from Lincoln all listed as the worst vehicles in their respective segments. Toyota doesn't fare much better, with its Lexus IS, Scion iQ and tC also making the list.
BMW Group has made some changes to its design team since August 1, and has shuffled top personnel to different positions at BMW Design, Mini Design and Rolls-Royce.
The BMW Design team led by Karim Habib (middle, right) gains a new head of Exterior Design in Domagoj Dukec (right), who has worked for the exterior design team since 2010 and shaped the Concept Active Tourer.
Oliver Heilmer (left), who has worked for BMW's interior design unit since 2000 and designed the 5 Series interior, replaces Marc Girard as head of Interior Design BMW Automobiles. Marc Girard goes to manage BMW's subsidiary design group, BMW DesignworksUSA.