To comply with the new stricter standards for fuel economy but without having to compromise strength or towing capability, the major carmakers are shaving the weight off their future pickup trucks.
Since the mandates will take effect in 2016, automakers such as Ford Motor Co. and General Motors Co. have only one design cycle to make revisions, which include the use of expensive steel substitutes such as aluminum, new steel alloys and magnesium.
The matter of passing on these costs to consumers is a delicate matter as mass is often associated with performance.
Dick Schultz, a consultant at Ducker Worldwide and an expert in the use of metals in vehicles, said for Reuters, that the industry is “hand-wringing” right now, adding that carmakers can’t afford to be wrong. By 2016, carmakers are required to attain an average fleet fuel economy of 35.5 miles per gallon by 2016.
Light trucks -- which made up about half of all U.S. auto sales in from January to November of 2010 – will need to reach about 30 miles per gallon. The corporate average fuel economy (CAFE) standard for 2010 is 29.2 miles per gallon.
Government data show that for light trucks alone, the goal is to reach 24.9 miles per gallon. These new standards coincide with the launch of battery-electric, plug-in and hybrid vehicles, helping the industry achieve these new targets. Nonetheless, automakers consider cutting the weight of the trucks to be crucial to complying with the new guidelines.