Last week, Wards Auto released its annual survey, conducted by Penton Market Research and sponsored by DuPont. The annual survey polled nearly 750 automotive sector employees – from system, component and parts manufacturers to engine and engine-service companies and vehicle manufacturers. The pool of respondents represented expertise within the engineering, design, manufacturing, marketing, sales and corporate segments.

According to the survey, lightweighting tops the list of strategies automakers are using to meet the challenge of improved vehicle fuel economy ahead of the 2025 CAFE (Corporate Average Fuel Economy) standards implementation.

Though aluminum remains the most-cited material choice for meeting the 2025 CAFE standards, automakers have sharpened their focus on FRP as a lightweighting tool, which DuPont says increased by 5 percentage points year-over-year – the single-largest increase in material choices versus 2016 – while interest in multi-material solutions decreased by 4 percentage points. Advanced composites like continuous fiber and carbon fiber took fifth place, behind advanced, high-strength steel.

“In addition to enabling innovations in passenger safety, comfort and convenience, plastics have been delivering lightweighting solutions for more than 30 years,” said Brian Fish, the North American automotive marketing manager at DuPont Performance Materials. “The newer emerging technologies like advanced composites hold promise.”

The vehicle powertrain remains the most-cited focus area for vehicle lightweighting efforts, up two points from 2016, with the chassis coming in second. The survey also spotlighted another change worth noting: the rise in vehicle interiors as a lightweighting target, interest in which practically doubled year over year.

The United States is aiming for a 54.5 mpg fleet average by 2025. A midterm review by the EPA and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is designed to determine the industry’s technological readiness and ability to implement the standards at an acceptable cost. A final decision is expected in 2018.