Detroit Auto Show – Ford wrap up, Carbon Fiber is the new Aluminum

ford gt rear

After all of the excitement and glitz has settled down from the North American International Auto Show (NAIAS) in Detroit, we here at Car News Cafe have noticed an emerging material trend that appears to be ready to break into the mainstream. It’s not aluminum, even though from all the hype about the new F-150 from Ford, you would almost think they invented the stuff. No, the material about to show up in every garage is carbon fiber. It used to be the stuff of F1 cars, fighter jets and the occasional super exotic sports car; and ironically it was Ford at the NAIAS that made the most announcements about carbon fiber, which will likely one day will be used on a car you, our readers, will drive.

Just before Bill Ford, Jr unleashed that trio of wheeled horsepower, he made a quick note that Ford entered into a partnership with DowAksa to develop the technology needed to produce structural carbon fiber components in high volume. DowAksa is itself a joint venture of Dow Chemical, one of the worlds leading science and technology companies, and Aksa, the worlds leading provider of acrylic fibers.

Also shown briefly during Ford’s presentation at the Detroit auto show was the lightweight Ford Fusion project. Ford was able to reduce the weight of this car by over 25% while maintaining the same capabilities of the production car. This was done by a holistic approach to weight savings with included many carbon fiber parts such as bodywork, wheels, and even the cylinder head of the 1.0L 3-cylinder engine.

When Ford then roared (donut-ed?) the Mustang GT350R onto the stage, we were told of all the ways they were able to reduce the weight by 150 pounds compared to the ‘standard’ GT350 (no radio, backseat, sound deadening, etc). The largest portion of this weight loss came from just one component, the wheels. Carbon fiber wheels in place of forged aluminum dropped the vehicle mass (and unsprung weight) by 50 pounds!

Finally we got to see the new Ford GT supercar. Among it’s many advances over it’s predecessors is a carbon fiber passenger cell wrapped in structural carbon fiber body panels.

Connecting the lessons learned from the lightweight Fusion project, to putting into production the first high volume original equipment carbon fibers wheels, and announcing a partnership with the worlds leading provider of acrylic fibers, maybe the next F150 will be made from the stuff of F1 instead of PepsiOne.

Brad Halderman
Brad Halderman is a tire engineer and performance test driver that currently works for Hankook Tire Co. He loves cars and writing about them on and focuses on technical details of tires, wheels, and vehicles. His father is the well known automotive technical writer James Halderman, so he's grown up in the business so to speak.