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by Tim Beissmann

BMW will increase its focus on lightweight construction and the use of carbon fibre in its future vehicles. The announcement follows the confirmation of a strengthened partnership between the German automotive giant and carbon fibre manufacturer SGL Group.

BMW board member Friedrich Eichiner said the deal to acquire a 15.16 per cent stake in the SGL Group was a clear indication of BMW’s future design and manufacturing plans.

“Lightweight construction will play an increasingly important role in the automobile industry in the future,” Mr Eichiner said. “Our stake-holding in the SGL Group is a logical step that will further strengthen our successful cooperation.”

The BMW Group and the SGL Group already operate a joint venture. The company, SGL Automotive Carbon Fibers, produces lightweight carbon fibre reinforced plastic (CFRP) components for BMW vehicles in a factory in Moses Lake, Washington in the US.

The plant will produce CFRP body components for the upcoming BMW i3 and BMW i8 vehicles. The i3 will become BMW’s first mass-produced electric vehicle when it goes on sale in 2013, and will be followed soon after by the i8 plug-in hybrid sports car. Both vehicles are earmarked to arrive in Australia in 2014.

BMW is not unique in striking up partnerships with carbon fibre manufacturers. Mercedes-Benz and Japanese carbon fibre maker Toray are collaborating on CFRP, with the next-generation SL-Class likely to be the first vehicle to benefit from the weight-saving technology. Audi also has a similar partnership with local German carbon fibre manufacturer Voith for its future vehicles.




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