General Motors is seeking bids from suppliers to produce plastic panels for the Cadillac Evoq luxury sports car.
GM has told suppliers it plans to produce as many as 4,500 Evoqs annually, but volume could be only 2,500 for its first production year (2003), suppliers said.
In May, GM put out a request for quotes, asking thermoset molders to bid on the parts, according to three supplier sources.
A GM spokeswoman said the company would not comment on production plans for the vehicle.
GM has also considered using steel or lightweight aluminum for the Evoq, sources said. But tooling costs would be 30 percent higher for metal panels than for plastic, according to sources.
Another issue is high-grade surfaces. The Evoq is expected to sell for $70,000 or more, and it is not clear if buyers will accept composite panels on an expensive luxury vehicle.
Mercedes-Benz thinks consumers will. The company will equip its flagship CL coupe with composite front quarter panels in 2000. The coupe will sell for more than $100,000.
The Evoq is being developed jointly, and is sharing a platform, with the next-generation Chevrolet Corvette. The Corvette has had plastic or fiberglass panels since it was introduced in 1953.
But the Evoq's plastic body panels could be costly for suppliers. Design and engineering work would be expensive. And the sales volume might be too low to pay for the upfront design costs, said one supplier.