French plastics specialist Inoplast SA has produced the first composite tailgate to be top-coated by a supplier, matching a car's body color.
Inoplast is supplying Volvo with a composite tailgate for its new V70 station wagon.
Composite components are up to 40 percent lighter than competing steel applications. They also provide cost and styling advantages.
Inoplast worked with Volvo on the composite tailgate for two years prior to the V70's launch. Inoplast's engineers were integrated into Volvo's development team. Initially, the team worked with a prototype based on a previous Volvo model to validate the concept. Process and quality procedures to control the matching of the tailgate color with the car body color were the biggest problem, said Inoplast.
The company worked on the solution in partnership with DuPont and coatings firm Herberts.
Inoplast invested FF65 million (A9.8 million) in production facilities in St. Desirat, France, where the tailgate is molded, assembled and painted.
The tailgate is delivered in sequence to Volvo's plants in Ghent, Belgium, and Gothenburg, Sweden, through third-party facilities close to the assembly lines.
Inoplast said it is currently working on five more composite tailgates, all of which will reach the market by 2002.
In 1998 Inoplast had sales of FF700 million and employed 900 people.