Canadian Manufacturing

Magna and Ford team up to build lightweight carbon fibre subframe

The carbon subframe is 34 per cent lighter than a stamped steel equivalent and uses 87 per cent fewer parts than a traditional frame

March 14, 2017  by Canadian Staff

Magna’s carbon fibre subframe is part of an R&D project with Ford to develop fuel efficient, lightweight automotive materials. PHOTO: Magna International Inc.

SAILAUF, Germany—Fuel efficiency is an endless pursuit for automakers, and while engine improvements are vital, building lighter frames and components is also key. One Canadian company is partnering with a motor giant to make the most out of a light and durable material.

Magna International Inc., a Toronto-based global auto parts manufacturer, in cooperation with Ford Motor Co., has developed a carbon fiber composite subframe.

This carbon subframe is 34 per cent lighter than a stamped steel equivalent.

By replacing 45 steel parts with six carbon parts, the subframe also uses 87 per cent fewer parts than a traditional frame. These large moldings are joined together with adhesive bonding and rivets.


Magna says the design has passed all performance requirements, based on computer-aided engineering (CAE) analyses.

The prototype subframes are now being produced by Magna for component and vehicle-level testing at Ford.

The testing phase will evaluate corrosion, stone chipping and bolt load retention, which aren’t currently measured by CAE. The project team will also develop a recommended design, manufacturing and assembly process.

“We’ve been a pioneer in the use of lightweight materials for many years now. First we launched the CF hood for the Cadillac CTS/ATS-V series, followed by a carbon fiber grille opening reinforcement for the Mustang Shelby Cobra GT500. Applying our expertise now to a structural component like the subframe is another step forward as we continue to help our OEM partners meet their goals,” said Grahame Burrow, president of Magna Exteriors.

“Collaboration is the key to success in designing lightweight components that can give our customers fuel economy improvements without compromising ride and handling, durability or safety,” said Mike Whitens, director of Vehicle Enterprise Systems for Ford Research and Advanced Engineering.