By Jim Kerr

There are a million stories out there about what is happening in the
auto industry. Some are big. Some are smaller. Here are a few smaller
stories that still play a significant part in what we drive.


Scratch Guard Coat

Scratch Guard Coat
Click image to enlarge

Nissan has developed a self-repairing paint. Called “Scratch Guard Coat”, this clear topcoat paint remains in an elastic state and flows back to a smooth surface to eliminate minor scratches from car washing, brushing the snow off your vehicle or fingernails. The vehicle’s finish will return to its original state in one day to a week depending upon outside temperatures and the depth of the scratch.

The Scratch Guard Coat also has a higher resistance to scratches
compared to existing paints. According to Nissan, “a vehicle painted
with “Scratch Guard Coat” will have only one-fifth the abrasions caused
by a car-washing machine compared with a car covered with conventional
clear paint”.

This new Scratch Guard Coat works for about three years to help repel
moisture and scratches. Look for it on one of Nissan’s SUV models in the near future.


Ford is using wind tunnel enhancements to shorten the time and cost it
takes to test prototype vehicles before they start production. Every
year, Ford sends test teams to extreme environments in Arizona, Florida, Colorado and Canada. They are testing vehicles in high heat, high humidity, low temperature and snow conditions. In the past, this could take up to two years of testing.

Now, Ford is able to recreate Arizona’s desert heat or a full-blown
Canadian blizzard in their Driveability Test Facility (DTF) wind
tunnels. This allows developers to test vehicles for extreme climatic
conditions regardless of what time of the year it is.

Opened in 2000, the Driveability Test Facility in Detroit is far more
than typical wind tunnels. It can simulate everything from aerodynamics
to hot roads or 130-degree sun exposure. Dynamometers for both front and rear wheels provide road-like simulations for powertrain testing on
two-wheel and four-wheel drive vehicles.

DTF’s Wind Tunnel #7 is capable of simulating a sub-zero Canadian
blizzard. Using snow-making equipment, just as they do on the ski
slopes, technicians can create a 129 km/h blizzard, to test vehicle
operation such as snow ingestion into the vehicle’s air intake system.
Normally, creating this effect would involve driving across a frozen
lake in Thompson, Manitoba. Cold weather testing is still done in
Thompson, but wind tunnel simulation can help improve the vehicles
quicker, especially when winter weather turns mild.

While wind tunnel testing in Ford’s DTF centre is reducing road testing, natural environment testing is still an important step in final confirmation. Using wind tunnel environmental testing reduces vehicle development costs, which in turn can keep the price of production vehicles down and quality high.


Cars made of bamboo? Only in the Flintstones cartoons you say? Not
according to Mitsubishi. In co-operation with the Aichi Industrial
Technology Institute in Japan, Mitsubishi Motors has developed an
automotive interior material using a plant-based resin, polybutylene
succinate (PBS) combined with bamboo fibre. This environmentally
friendly material can replace petroleum-based resins and wood hardboards now used in vehicle interiors.

The PBS resin is largely made of succinic acid created through the
fermentation of sugar extracted from sugar cane or corn. Adding bamboo
fibres to the resin add rigidity and strength, similar to adding
fibreglass strands to fibreglass resin.

Promoted as a “green” alternative, this organic quick-growing renewable plant-based material will reduce dependency on oil reserves and our forests and according to tests, this PBS/bamboo-fibre prototype achieves an estimated 50% cut in lifecycle CO2 emissions over the now widely used polypropylene materials. PBS is a potentially sustainable resource, as the materials can be easily grown and recycled.

Parts made from the material will be used in the interior of a
new-concept mini-car, to be launched in Japan in 2007.

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