Vehicle construction is changing rapidly. To borrow from a Bob Dylan lyric, the times are “a-changin’.” These words, first sung some 45 years ago, still ring true today. Back then, your baby sat beside you while you were behind the wheel of your Ford F-100, which was made of conventional steel. Today, you may be humming a different tune. You may have no particular place to go in your 2009 F-150, but a lot more features from which to choose, including safety, comfort, and infotainment enhancements. While we can’t put a price on safety, and consumers certainly value the high-tech capabilities of today’s vehicles, they do add a significant amount of weight to a vehicle. This combination doesn’t mesh so well with today’s need to maximize fuel economy and reduce emissions. Can you imagine what one of those classics would weigh with all of today’s add-ons? My estimate is somewhere around 6,000 pounds.

So how are Ford and other leading manufacturers able to provide customers with all of those must-have features while achieving weight savings, improved vehicle crash worthiness, fuel economy, and reduced total greenhouse gas emissions? The answer is advanced high-strength steel (AHSS).

More than half of the vehicles sold in the United States today currently contain some amount of AHSS. This includes some other familiar vehicles, such as the Chevrolet Traverse and the Chrysler Town and Country, which have above-average utilization of AHSS in their construction. The 2009 Ford F-150, for example, has HSS roof bows and rear roof structure, as well as ultra high-strength steel (UHSS) roof rails and a passenger safety cage. The cage is said to be 75 percent stronger, yet only seven percent heavier than its predecessor. While domestic vehicles are making strides, European cars currently lead the way for incorporating AHSS in door and side structure assemblies. The primary motivator here is meeting strict European Union side-impact requirements.

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