When Chevrolet unveiled its convertible version of the 2014 Corvette Stingray at the 2013 Geneva Motor Show, the vehicle’s power-folding roof and speed capabilities may have grabbed attention, but the convertible’s all-new aluminum frame might produce the greatest long-term impact.
Because of its aluminum frame, the convertible is 99 lbs. lighter and 57% stiffer than the previous-generation convertible. As a result, the frame is strong enough that no structural reinforcements are needed for the convertible model, noted Chevrolet in a press release.
The new Corvette Stingray will be built at General Motor’s Bowling Green, Ky., assembly plant, which underwent a $131 million upgrade, including approximately $52 million for a new body shop to manufacture the aluminum frame in-house for the first time.
With the Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) on the horizon, automakers are seeking solutions to improve fuel efficiency without sacrificing performance. Aluminum, which is lighter than steel, lowers the weight of vehicles to accommodate fuel efficiency.
And GM isn’t the only automaker with an aluminum-based agenda.
Audi actually debuted an Audi Space Frame, a silver show car with an unpainted body made of polished aluminum, at the Frankfurt Motor Show 20 years ago. The first Audi A8 featuring a unitary aluminum body entered production back in 1994.
Furthermore, Honda Motor announced the development of a new aluminum-steel welding process last month that allows the welding of aluminum and steel together without running into electrical corrosion issues. As a result, the Japanese automaker said it will be able to manufacture cars with a mix of steel and aluminum, reducing door panel weight by about 17%.
At the end of February, Audi and BMW Group joined the Aluminum Stewardship Initiative to help develop a global standard for sustainable aluminum. The Aluminum Stewardship Initiative was founded in 2012 to develop a sustainability standard for aluminum by the end of 2014. Focused on “environmental protection and social responsibility,” the initiative will set environmental and social criteria that apply to all states of extracting, processing and producing the raw material.
Both the coupe and convertible versions of the 2014 Corvette Stingray will be constructed with the all-new aluminum frame and feature a 6.2L V-8 engine capable of accelerating from 0-62 mph in about 4 seconds. The new Corvettes are scheduled to go on sale in late 2013.