Decision due by the end of 2018

Ford is evaluating a new carbon-fibre subframe, assessing whether it can be used in a high-volume production vehicle.

The new front subframe was jointly developed by Ford and Magna, a key supplier in the automotive industry, and contains mounting points for the engine and the front wheels.

It is currently being evaluated in a Ford Fusion development vehicle — the Fusion is essentially the North American variant of the Mondeo range sold locally.

According to Magna, the new subframe is 34 per cent lighter than a traditional metal unit, and contains just six parts: two moulded carbon-fibre composite units, and four metal components. A traditional subframe contains around 45 steel parts.

Andrew Swikoski, Magna global product director for lightweight composites, told Automotive News the new subframe is about third lighter than existing units. Thanks to the greatly reduced number of components, the cost of tooling is said to be reduced by around 30 to 40 per cent.

Ongoing production costs are said to be kept in check by Magna's choice of composites.

Despite these pluses, Swikoski acknowledges there are still challenges to address. For example, carbon-fibre is inherently brittle and doesn't absorb crash energy as well as metal.

Because of this, the carbon-fibre subframe is designed to drop the engine below the vehicle in the event of a collision.

Ford is expected to come to a decision about the carbon-fibre subframe by the end of the year.