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Magna and Ford developing prototype carbon fiber composite subframe; mass reduction of 34%

In pursuit of lower vehicle weight to reduce emissions and improve fuel efficiency, Magna International Inc., in cooperation with Ford Motor Company, developed a prototype carbon fiber composite subframe which reduces mass by 34% compared to making a stamped steel equivalent. The subframe is a key part of a vehicle’s structure, typically providing a place to attach the engine and wheels while also contributing rigidity and crash management.

By replacing 45 steel parts with two molded and four metallic parts, the prototype subframe achieves an 87% reduction in the number of parts. The moldings are joined by adhesive bonding and structural rivets.


The carbon fiber subframe is the result of a research and development project between Magna and Ford to investigate potential mass-reduction benefits and technical challenges of using carbon fiber-reinforced composites in chassis applications. This is part of a larger effort by Ford to explore different design strategies for light chassis development, including magnesium subframes, carbon fiber subframes, aluminum cross-members and lightweight coil springs.


When we are able to work in close partnership with a customer at the beginning of their design and engineering processes, it’s an opportunity to bring our full Magna capabilities to bear. We are able to take a clean-sheet approach with design, materials and processing, collaborate with the customer and within our product groups, and deliver a solution with the potential to really move the needle in terms of aggressive lightweighting without sacrificing styling or performance.

—Grahame Burrow, President of Magna Exteriors

Magna’s engineering team—an intra-company collaborative effort between the body & chassis and exteriors product groups—combined its full-vehicle knowledge on the design, materials and processing to address the challenge of reducing weight using composite materials and manufacturing processes.

The design has passed all performance requirements based on computer-aided engineering (CAE) analyses. The prototype subframes are now being produced by Magna for component and vehicle-level testing at Ford.

Collaboration is the key to success in designing lightweight components that can give our customers fuel economy improvements without compromising ride and handling, durability or safety. We must continue to work hard to achieve these lightweight solutions at the most affordable costs. Magna and Ford working together on this carbon fiber composite subframe is a great example of collaboration on advanced materials.

—Mike Whitens, Director of Vehicle Enterprise Systems within Ford Research and Advanced Engineering

The testing phase will evaluate corrosion, stone chipping and bolt load retention, which aren’t currently measured by CAE. The project team will also develop a recommended design, manufacturing and assembly process with the experience gained during the prototype build and subsequent testing.

Magna has been pioneering the use of lightweight materials for a number of years, noted Burrow. The company launched a carbon fiber hood for the Cadillac CTS/ATS-V series, followed by a carbon fiber grille opening reinforcement for the Mustang Shelby Cobra GT500.



Hope that the prototypes will prove to be as good if not better that steel units.

The next step may be with nanocellulose re-enforced fiber material for increased strength and less weight.

With more light weight materials, the average car weight may drop from 3000+ lbs to less than 2000 lbs


The entire car market is upside down, nobody talk anymore about the nissan e-note serial hybrid. Autoblog is offline and the comment section of autobloggreen is removed since a week and they didn't say anything about it. It prove that the green market is not taking off and everybody is giving up except a big bunch of madscientists is still cashing up big fat subsidies for useless studies


From the looks of the pictures it seems the CF parts take up more space than the steel parts. That's not always an option when designing a car. It's even less of an option if you're thinking of simply replacing the part in a current car.

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