Aluminum cars: safer, lighter and more expensive
December 4, 1996
Web posted at: 4:00 p.m. EST
From Correspondent David George
BRASELTON, Georgia (CNN) -- A sleek new roadster is burning
rubber along the highway to the future, thanks to its
aluminum-intensive structure. The car is rust-proof,
fuel-efficient, and safe, and could become the measuring
for the next generation of vehicles.
"A large proportion of this car is built out of aluminum,
which is a coming industry trend," Dan Panoz, president of
Panoz Automotive Development, said of the Panoz Roadster.
The Panoz -- built in Braselton of parts
made by Ford -- will be sold initially at only about two
dozen Ford dealerships in the United States. About 200 will
be built in 1997 and will sell for roughly $56,000.
While the Panoz comes close to being an all-aluminum car,
even conventional cars are being built with more aluminum
parts than ever.
"Ten years ago, the average content of aluminum in American
cars was about 140 pounds, and I believe the Aluminum
Association today rates it at 200 pounds and it continues to
grow," said Joel Benedyk of Alumax Aluminum.
Why the shift from steel to aluminum?
According to Panoz, automakers like aluminum for a number of
reasons. For instance, aluminum doesn't rust or corrode like
steel, and it allows for a lighter yet safer structure.
(220 K / 20 sec. AIFF or WAV sound)
The Panoz Roadster is lined with two aluminum
reinforcement tubes that act as a protective mechanism
against side-impact collisions.
"You're extremely safe in this car because you have massive
rails bigger than anything you'd see in a regular production
car," Panoz said.
But aluminum has its downside, too. For one, it's
expensive, costing nearly three times as much as steel. But
the aluminum industry is working on new technologies designed
to bring down manufacturing costs and to make aluminum cars
Until then, the sleek Panoz Roadster will zip around as if it
owns the road.
Related sites: Note: Pages will open in a new browser window
External sites are not endorsed by CNN Interactive.
© 1996 Cable News Network, Inc.
All Rights Reserved.