TURIN - Fiat Auto may use a new body-on-frame construction concept for future niche vehicles.
Renato Zambrano, Fiat Auto technical director, said the technology - called Dual Frame - is still in the research and development stage. A series of niche vehicles Fiat Auto plans in cooperation with General Motors within the next three years will still be based on traditional steel platforms, Zambrano said.
But Zambrano said Dual Frame could be the ideal construction method for vehicles produced at volumes of 20,000 to 30,000 units a year - and possibly as high as 100,000.
The Dual Frame consists of a modular steel frame that could be used for a variety of body types, including coupes, roadsters, minivans, sport-utilities and sedans. The body is built on a separate steel spaceframe that is lighter than a traditional spaceframe construction.
The two elements would not be fastened together rigidly - as with current off-roaders and sport-utilities - but flexibly, via a series of 'blocks' made of rubber and metal.
The new fastening system gives the passenger compartment extra insulation from noise and vibration.
On Fiat's research prototypes, eight blocks join the frame and the passenger compartment. Hydraulic 'adaptive' blocks that adjust stiffness and damping to improve handling in different conditions would eventually replace the blocks.
Later, continuously-adjustable adaptive blocks would be used to ensure ideal responses to all road conditions.
Zambrano said the reduction of road and engine noise to the passenger compartment from 5 to 7 decibels would be the main advantage of the Dual Frame. But so far, no clear savings have emerged in terms of tooling investment and production costs, he said.