Q: What can composites suppliers and manufacturers do to help Honda better utilize composites?

We work very closely not just with Tier 1 suppliers, but down to Tier 2 and Tier 3 suppliers as well. Approaching [our work] as a team is very important to us. Having a supply base that’s willing to partner with us and generate solutions all through the value chain is really important. For us, the No. 1 thing we’re trying to keep in mind is the value we give to the customer. So we look for our partner suppliers to also keep focused on overall value to the customer when we’re talking back and forth about design changes, material changes and things like that.

honda-ridgeline-truck-bed

The 2017 Honda Ridgeline features an SMC truck bed. One of the unique features of the bed is that the entire floor and side function as a large speaker, so owners can play music while tailgating. Photo Credit: American Honda Motor Co. Inc.

Q: Do you have an example of a specific composites-related partnership that has worked well?

Both generations of the Ridgeline truck bed have been award-winning, and the bed contributed to the truck being named the 2017 North American Truck of the Year. The success of that composite application didn’t just happen because Honda had an idea and went to a supplier with a blueprint. For example, we worked with the molder Continental Structural Plastics, as well as resin suppliers like Ashland and additive suppliers like ADDCOMP. We treated that project from the very beginning as a team – soliciting ideas and talking about the value proposition to the customer. It was a collaborative effort from start to finish.

Q: Where do you envision composites usage in the automobile industry headed in the future?

There are a lot of entities out there trying to get their hands around where the overall industry is going. What does the customer envision, and how are we even going to use cars in 10 to 15 years? It’s a bit of a generic answer, but the key is finding that value proposition to the customer – and not just always the most cost-efficient product. How do we maximize value? [We need to] find where composites can enable quality, safety and robustness. You get some cues from where Honda is headed with composites based on the products we’ve already launched. Hopefully, we continue to grow those applications by finding the right fit and expanding the applications from there.