Collaboration Puts Us on the Road to Success at CAR MBS

Earlier this month, the Steel Market Development Institute (SMDI) participated in the 2017 Center for Automotive Research (CAR) Management Briefing Seminars (MBS), held at the Grand Traverse Resort in Traverse City, Michigan. If you attended the event, chances are you saw us while driving up on I-75, when checking into the resort or perhaps while reading the Automotive News Show Daily.

MBS is CAR’s annual flagship event. It serves as a platform for thought-provoking dialogue providing a vision for the future of the global automotive industry.

This year, attendees ranged from automaker and supplier executives to finance, academia, labor, government, business and automotive media representatives. This diverse crowd all gathered with one common interest – to connect and focus on issues currently challenging the automotive industry and solutions to achieve success.

Throughout the week, more than 65 speakers shared valuable material and engaged in candid discussion. Programming topics included manufacturing, connected and automated vehicles, sales and production forecasts, trade, strategy, restructuring, fuel emissions policy, mobility and design and innovation.

John Catterall, executive director of the Auto/Steel Partnership (A/SP) presented as part of the seminar’s “World Class Manufacturing Technologies” session. Catterall’s presentation highlighted the successful collaboration between the automotive and steel industries, next generation steels to the industry and the A/SP technology roadmap.

Industry to-do list

Aside from programming, the event served as a catalyst for networking. With more than 1,000 attendees, SMDI executives and SMDI member company representatives had the opportunity to interact with influential stakeholders within the industry. This included 70 onsite media who were interested in discussing steel innovation, lightweighting capabilities and the industry’s commitment to sustainability.

AD and P interview from AMF

It’s no surprise MBS is recognized as a must-attend event which continues to move the automotive industry forward in Michigan. SMDI is already looking for to attending the 2018 CAR MBS, scheduled for July 30 – August 2, 2018.

Did you attend MBS? Comment below and share your favorite presentation or event from the week!

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Navigating Your Car Buying/Leasing Experience

There comes a time in most people’s life when they decide to get a new vehicle. For many people, this can be overwhelming and arguably one of the biggest decisions needed to be made. To make this experience simpler, here are some things to keep in mind when navigating the car buying/leasing process.

Buying vs Leasing pros and cons

Leasing Versus Buying

There is no clear cut answer whether to lease or buy a car. For each individual, the decision will vary based on personal preference and lifestyle. If you’re willing to make a higher monthly payment until your loan is paid off and don’t mind driving a vehicle for several years, purchasing a car is the best choice. However, if you prefer a less expensive monthly payment and would rather drive a car for just a few years, leasing a vehicle would be a better fit.

Money, Money, Money, Money…Money

Though it can be tempting to lease or buy a car outside your budget, you don’t want to put yourself in a bind each month when your bill is due. Rest assured there is plenty of time in life to ride in style in your dream car.

If you haven’t already, take some time to figure out your monthly expenses. Based on this, decide how much you can afford to spend on a monthly car payment. It’s recommended your total car payment (interest, insurance, etc.) should not exceed 10% of your gross income. If you’re still in the dark, try using these online tools to help calculate your monthly lease payment or monthly car loan payment.

What Type of Vehicle?

There are so many different types of vehicles on the market – sedan, hatchback, SUV, crossover, couple, convertible, truck, hybrid/electric, diesel, minivan, luxury, wagon, etc. Spend some time accessing your personal needs in a vehicle and researching which vehicles will fit these needs. Though sports car may be more fun to drive, it may not be realistic for weather conditions or changes in the seasons. Additionally, a small sedan may not be ideal for fitting a growing family along with groceries.

cars  lot  for sale

Additionally, there are various online resources providing information on a vehicle, such as, J.D. Power, and Consumer Reports, along with online reviews from industry experts and owners which can give you a better understanding of the car.

It’s All in the Details

Automakers offer just about every feature you can imagine in their newest vehicle models. Some features are standard in most cars. However, other features can be considered luxury with an additional cost. Make a list of non-negotiable features and others that would be nice to have but could be lived without before heading to the dealer.

Woman using navigation system while driving a car

Features include:

  • Fuel Economy: cruise control, manual transmission and engine size
  • Functionality: interior fabric type, entertainment system, power features (locks, windows and seats), remote start, remote entry, heated seats and steering wheel, sunroof, rooftop storage racks, and towing packages
  • Safety: airbags, antilock brakes (ABS), tire pressure monitoring system (TPMS), automatic emergency braking (AEB), blind spot monitoring, all-wheel and four-wheel drive, and back up camera

Take It for a Spin

Last, but not least, head to your local dealerships to test drive your top vehicle choices. Test driving a car is a valuable opportunity to get a first-hand experience for a car’s performance and handling along with its interior features.

Before your test drive, take a look at the car’s exterior to consider its color, style and size. Once you get into the car, get a feel for the driver’s seat by examining the dash, seating and its adjustment controls, and the car’s visibility. As you drive, be conscious of the car’s acceleration, engine and road noise, braking, steering and handling and suspension. Also, make sure you feel comfortable with the car’s technology including its infotainment screen, backup camera and steering wheel controls.

young man smiling in the car with the keys in hand

Buying or leasing a car can be nerve-racking, however, keep in mind it’s a learning experience. At the end of the day, you’ll be driving away in a new set of wheels enjoying the new car smell!

Have you recently purchased or leased a car? Comment and share any tips for to help our first time readers!


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Different Grades, One Goal: Protecting Drivers

When you hear the phrase “high-strength steel,” what immediately comes to mind? Is it the capability for lightweighting? How about its recyclability? Or how new technology is making sweeping changes in the steel industry?

Despite all of those being true, it probably wasn’t your first thought.

In 1951, a promising Mercedes-Benz engineer named Béla Barényi registered patent DBP 854.157 with the German patent office. This patented the concept of the “crumple zone,” where a vehicle’s body is designed to absorb impact in certain areas to reduce damage to the passenger compartment. This is done through a mix of materials, placing milder materials in areas away from passengers and protecting them by design. First used on the 1959 Mercedes W111, the concept was a significant break from general practice at the time, which was to make every exterior vehicle component stiffer. A completely stiff vehicle doesn’t absorb any impact, meaning passengers would feel the brunt of the impact generated by the collision. The crumple zone revolutionized the automotive industry’s approach to passenger safety and like many of Barényi’s innovations it’s still in use today.

Crumple Zone Patent

The Crumple Zone Patent, from

Today’s crumple zones far outpace the safety and protection offered in those vehicles for a number of reasons. Though designs and technology have come a long way since the 1950s, the development of new steel grades has propelled the industry forward in its pursuit of safety. The latest grades of steel, known as advanced high-strength steel (AHSS), are up to five times as strong as previous grades and enable parts up to 35 percent lighter than the parts they replace. The high elongation (ability for the steel to be formed into parts despite its stiffness) and high-strength contribute to AHSS’s ability to absorb more energy as it deforms.

As regulations have made vehicle lightweighting a necessity, automakers are touting their use of high-strength steel in a vehicle’s construction. For example in larger, family-oriented vehicles like the 2017 Chrysler Pacifica, which features a body comprised of more than 72 percent high-strength steel.


The strongest steels have generally been placed in critical components of a vehicle’s passenger compartment. The passenger compartment surrounding the people inside includes the A- and B-pillars, roof rails and floor cross-members. Using high-tensile strength steel in these areas best protects passengers in the cases of rollovers and impacts to the front and side.

With more than 200 steel grades available, OEMs have the opportunity to utilize various grades throughout a vehicle. This allows automakers to use the right grade in the right application for exceptional occupant protection, crash energy management and durability. Knowing that AHSS is the fastest growing material in automotive applications, the steel industry continues to work closely with its customers to develop innovative grades and manufacturing technologies to provide tailored solutions for each application throughout the vehicle.

Do you know how much high-strength steel is in your vehicle? Let us know in the comments – we’d love to chat!

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The Auto Industry’s High-Strength Diet Plan

Today’s vehicles are getting lighter, as we’ve documented in a previous blog post. A practice beginning on the heels of the Oil Crisis of the 1970s, the automotive industry continues to look to lightweighting to increase the fuel efficiency of its vehicles. As the most sustainable automotive material, steel is no stranger to reducing greenhouse gas emissions – even when the world isn’t looking – and the steel industry continues to work hand-in-hand with the automotive industry to accelerate innovation in performance, value and sustainability.

Since regulations will continue to tighten for the foreseeable future, lightweighting is here to stay, meaning automotive material choices will continue to dominate the conversation. What other benefits does lightweighting with high-strength steel provide consumers outside of consuming less fuel? We’re glad you asked. Vehicle lightweighting enhances the overall driving experience in a variety of ways and the use of high-strength steel often accentuates those benefits.

A vehicle’s center of gravity is also called the center of mass. Every object has one, including us humans. Merriam-Webster defines it as “the point at which the entire weight of a body may be considered as concentrated so that if supported at this point the body would remain in equilibrium in any position.” If you need a clear picture, let’s have the high-strength steel-intensive Lexus LC 500 show us:

Lexus LC 500 balancing


When vehicle mass is changed, such as when an advanced high-strength steel (AHSS) or ultra high-strength steel (UHSS) component replaces a part made from another material, the center of gravity changes. This gives engineers another tool to improve the vehicle – the ability to put the vehicle’s center of gravity in an area better-suited to the needs of its customers. This results in improved dynamic performance, giving the vehicle more stability and greater handling.

Stopping and starting are also improved through a lighter-weight vehicle. You don’t need to be a physics major to know a Chevrolet Bolt will likely have a shorter braking distance than a Chrysler Pacifica, regardless of lightweighting achieved with steel. Though this example is much more pronounced (they are in different segments, of course), it demonstrates how a vehicle with more mass will need more stopping distance. The same goes for acceleration as well. A lighter vehicle will generally move quicker and be more agile.

The use of high-strength steels can also increase visibility! Automakers won’t be making windshields out of high-strength steel anytime soon, but as industry safety standards become more precise and account for a wider variety of crash types, the passenger cage is coming under the microscope. By using more AHSS and UHSS in a vehicle’s pillars, engineers can reduce the pillar size while maintaining or even increasing their performance and crashworthiness. This gives the driver a broader range of peripheral vision and more peace of mind driving on the highway.  More visibility and stronger materials, combined with a shorter braking distance, equals a safer vehicle overall. Take a look at how the 2016 Volvo XC90, winner of the Automotive Excellence Award at Great Designs in Steel 2017, envelops the vehicle’s passengers in high-strength steels and puts the strongest steel grades in the pillars:

Volvo XC90 BIW

The safety features don’t stop there! You may have heard of automatic braking, blind zone alerts or lane departure warnings. These features have prevented countless accidents already and will play a larger role in automakers’ future safety offerings.

So how does high-strength steel play a role in those features? Easy. Those systems are complex and highly technical, often involving the use of radar and other equipment around the vehicle. One or two sensors might not weigh much, but a vehicle’s entire suite of advanced safety features add up quickly. Automakers can use the weight savings from AHSS to include additional innovative features in their vehicle to further enhance the vehicle’s safety.

Lightweighting offers automakers the opportunity to gain an edge on their competition. Which of these benefits interest you the most? It’s okay to say more than one! Leave a comment below.

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Steel: Beyond the Body

When most people think of a vehicle using high-strength steel, two areas usually come to mind: the exterior panels and the vehicle’s frame. That’s no surprise, since they’re two of the areas where high-strength steel makes the biggest impact on a vehicle’s weight and performance. However, it’s time we start looking beyond the body for areas where high-strength steel provides value.

Steel has been crucial to the automotive industry since its inception. Most critical vehicle components are made out of steel, and years of collaboration between the steel industry and the auto industry has accelerated innovation in both. As automakers continue to look for ways to make their vehicles lighter while maintaining or improving performance, the steel industry continues to create improved, higher tensile strength grades of steel even in places the average consumer doesn’t normally think about when purchasing a vehicle.

Today’s automakers love touting their vehicles’ high-strength steel makeup, however, they love talking about their vehicles’ engines even more. Internal combustion engines are made up of thousands of individual parts all moving in perfect harmony to create the force that propels a vehicle. From pistons to valves, connecting rods to cam shafts, many components of a vehicle’s engine are made of steel due to the extremely high temperatures and intense loads an engine produces. The steel industry has responded to market demands by supplying newer grades of steel to make these parts, allowing automakers to maintain and improve part durability and performance while reducing size and weight. This allows the vehicle to go further than before using the same amount of fuel!


All that effort to make a vehicle go in a straight line is fine – if you’re a drag racer. What about the components that make a vehicle turn? Good news, high-strength steel helps steering systems too. Rack-and-pinion parts (the system moved by the steering wheel to turn the front wheels) and suspension components (how the vehicle is connected to its wheels) are other key areas where high-strength steel makes a difference. Because of the intense demands required of these systems – especially in terms of safety – only the most durable, effective materials will make the cut. That’s where the innovation of the steel industry comes in. Since high-strength steels have a wide range of formability and strength, automakers can create torsion bars, stabilizers, steering racks and more to the exact specifications required for both safety and performance. Automakers are continuing to find new ways to create better steering and suspension components out of high-strength steels. We can’t wait for what’s next!

Let’s shift gears a bit and talk about the transmission. How does high-strength steel affect the gearbox? As a critical component of a vehicle’s drivetrain, the transmission ensures a vehicle is using the right amount of power given the speed, terrain and how much load the vehicle is carrying. Transmission failures have frustrated drivers and repair shops alike, so it’s a relief to know that carmakers are making transmissions more durable by increasing their use of ultra- and advanced high-strength steel. Gears, shafts and clutches alike are seeing the benefits of high-strength steel’s fatigue resistance, with lighter weight as an added bonus!

stick shift

That lighter weight is also making it easier on the driveshaft, which itself is seeing more use of durable high-strength steel. The rods and differential gears that move power from the engine to the transmission are key contributors to the weight of a vehicle, in addition to being a vital part of a vehicle’s ability to perform. Downsizing and reducing the mass of driveshaft components while maintaining or improving the vehicle’s overall performance remains a focus of today’s researchers.

Steel really can be used in a variety of ways in the automotive industry. Its durability and reliability make a significant difference – and the industry is taking notice. Each vehicle provides the opportunity for engineers, designers and researchers to learn more about high-strength steels and how to best use them in a vehicle. From its current uses to its future applications, the steel industry is committed to maintaining steel’s status as the best material for the automotive industry!

Did any components surprise you? Let us know in the comments!

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The Steel Industry’s Tech Transformation

This is a guest post courtesy of Sean Donnelly, president and CEO of ArcelorMittal Dofasco, based in Hamilton, ON, and chairman of the Steel Market Development Institute’s (SMDI) CEO Group. He was the keynote speaker at Great Designs in Steel (GDIS) 2017.

SMDI invited the steel and automotive industries to Livonia, Michigan for GDIS 2017 to share knowledge, network with peers, tout the innovative work taking place in the industry, and to present the Automotive Excellence Award. Given the focus on materials in today’s automotive industry, collaboration is the key to advancing steel.

Humphrey points to Donnelly

I was proud to participate in a keynote conversation at this year’s event. Having worked at ArcelorMittal Dofasco for my entire 35-year career, I’ve experienced many changes in the automotive industry.

Vehicle design has been the most drastic improvement. From handling to power, styling to connectivity, automakers have implemented significant innovations. Today, strict automotive regulations are challenging automakers to squeeze every possible MPG out of vehicle engines while also improving vehicle safety. As vehicles becomes more fuel-efficient, it’s clear lightweighting is mandatory to stay competitive. The steel industry is working with automakers closer than ever before, but how can further improvements be made?

Automotive engineers are working with steel industry researchers earlier in the design process to ensure the use of varying steel grades is optimized for automakers’ needs. This process is featured prominently at GDIS and is an important part of our strategy in the steel industry. As we discussed during the event, when you put intelligent people with a common purpose together to collaborate, you will get successful results. The event is praised by automakers and steelmakers alike for facilitating inter-industry collaboration while balancing the proprietary information of all involved organizations. Communicating openly and working closely with each other at GDIS, and beyond, is enabling both industries to flourish.

Challenges Faced by the Steel Industry

We continue to search for new ways to make better products for automakers. However, there are two key categories I’d like to discuss.

First, we are constantly looking to reduce variability in the steels we produce in areas such as mechanical properties, surface quality and thickness. The steel industry has made incredible progress in this and improvements continue to be made. We are ensuring our products perform as they should every single time – from weld quality, to road performance, to recyclability at the end of its life.

Second, the need to increase the formability of steel products continues to be at a premium. The steel strength-ductility diagram below shows the multitude of steel grades currently available to automakers. Steel companies are working to increase how much their products can be shaped during production (indicated by elongation on the y-axis), while also increasing their strength (x-axis). As you can see in this chart, the variety of grades available to automakers (currently over 200) is constantly increasing and moving to high-strength and high elongation grades, far outpacing the innovation of other materials.

Steel Grade Innovation Today CUT

How will the industry achieve these goals? Through technology.

“Industry 4.0,” defined as the second stage of automation, is transforming the industry. Machines and robots are using people, sensors, algorithms and advanced software to gather data and communicate with each other to make decentralized decisions in real time. This technology helps humans solve problems using data never seen before – the new capabilities are boosting production efficiency and making product design more detailed.

New data capabilities give more insight into steel processing than ever before, allowing researchers around the world to make newer, consistent, stronger and more ductile steels faster than at any point in history. Additionally, processes enabled by these new technologies impact every facet of the steelmaking process.  For example, automated surface inspection applies technology to the quality control process, which has reduced non-conforming production four-fold. This directly helps the industry achieve its goal of reducing variability in its products. New technology is a key reason why the production of advanced high-strength steel has increased by 7000% during the past decade.

The Steel Industry of the Future

The future of the steel industry involves much more highly-trained, highly-skilled workers than in the past. One of ArcelorMittal’s 10 Sustainable Development Outcomes is to “ensure a pipeline of talented scientists and engineers.” We’re aiming to funnel young students into STEM programs, equipping them for the economy of the future and beyond. Coding, robotics and advanced manufacturing will all play key parts in ArcelorMittal’s future, with work under way to further develop these career paths. Other steel companies are also implementing similar processes to prepare the next era of steel.

The steel industry can never move too fast in its pursuit of improvement. Automakers and suppliers alike are cheering on the new developments introduced by the steel industry, and are applauding the adoption of new technologies and research collaboration on display at GDIS. The most valuable part of GDIS is in the exchange of ideas. The best and brightest in the automotive and steel industries are all gathered in one place to learn and collaborate with each other. No matter how steel affects your life, it’s an exciting time to be in one of the world’s most technologically advanced industries.

Donnelly talks to Humphrey

How else is technology changing the automotive industry? What sort of innovations do you think are on the horizon? Let us know in the comments below.

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Your Summer Soundtrack Tune Up

Windows down, music up! There’s no better feeling than going on a summertime adventure, where new experiences await. Whether you’re headed out solo or with friends, have an action packed itinerary or plan to go wherever the road takes you, you’ll need a strong soundtrack to go with it.

We have the perfect one for you.

The Perfect Playlist for the Perfect Drive!

The role of music as part of the driving experience cannot be understated. When you hear the intro of a song like Joker and the Thief or Wagon Wheel, you can’t help but turn up the volume! Our hope is that every song on this playlist gives you a “best road trip ever” type of feeling. Before you hit the road, grab some sunscreen, put your windows down and the sunroof all the way back, open your Spotify app, and let our playlist work its magic.

Without further ado, we present to you DriveUsingSteel’s “Summer on the Road” playlist!

Hit the “Follow” button so you can pull it up as soon as you get in the car!

These songs have inspired countless head bobs, steering wheel taps, impromptu in-car concerts and more. You just can’t help but smile when you’re Walking on Sunshine, whether you’re the driver or The Passenger. There’s nothing like Summertime to remind you of the gorgeous scenery of America!  It’s a great time to make some memories, and we have just the soundtrack.

What do you think of our Summer on the Road playlist? Any songs we should add? Leave a comment and let us know!

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Volvo Wins Automotive Excellence Award at 16th annual Great Designs in Steel Seminar

Every year, the Steel Market Development Institute presents the Automotive Excellence Award at the annual Great Designs in Steel (GDIS) conference. Now in its 16th year, the conference features the best and brightest of the automotive and steel industries and is the largest material-focused conference in the world. GDIS features multiple technical presentations from across the industry – there’s truly something for everyone!

The Automotive Excellence award is bestowed upon the winning presentation from last year’s conference based on a series of criteria such as challenges and benefits associated with costs, mass reduction and performance; overall contribution to the advancement of steel; and implementation in production.

Auto Excellence USE

From L to R: Sean Donnelly, Matthew Winkler, Lawrence Kavanagh and Dave Anderson. 

At GDIS 2017, Henric Lindberg and the Volvo Car Corporation body structure team won the award for their presentation titled, “Advanced High-Strength Steel Technologies in the 2016 Volvo XC90” shown at GDIS 2016.


The presentation featured Volvo’s newly designed body architecture for the XC90, the Scalable Product Architecture (SPA). Stiffer, stronger, larger and lighter, the XC90 architecture is designed to improve the driving performance through increased use of Advanced High-Strength Steel (AHSS).

Volvo XC90

“Volvo’s innovative use of steel will launch a new generation of applications of the material,´ said Jody Hall, SMDI’s vice president of the automotive market. “Their new architecture exemplifies the use of the right material in the right application. By utilizing a steel-intensive structure, they were able to reduce mass without sacrificing strength and safety.” Hall also noted how exceptional innovation using steel in automotive design and manufacturing is shown by award winners.

Along with winning the Automotive Excellence Award, the structure played a significant part in the XC90 being named a Top Safety Pick by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) in 2015. It was also awarded the 2016 North American Truck/Utility of the Year at the North American International Auto Show – an award that continues to be given to advanced high-strength steel-intensive vehicles.


Starting in 2002, GDIS grew from 475 registrants to over 1,600 today – making it one of the largest and longest running materials focused conferences in the world.

Volvo XC90 BIW

Join us in congratulating Henric Linberg and the Volvo team!  What do you think is the best-designed vehicle on the road today? Let us know in the comments below.

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Let’s Take It Outside with NWAPA!

The Pacific Northwest, a general term for the states of Washington, Oregon and Idaho, is well-known for its outdoor culture – no surprise, given the area’s gorgeous scenery. The population of these states are generally centered around one big city (Seattle, Portland and Boise), surrounded by thousands of acres of natural beauty to be enjoyed in all four seasons.  In our quest to tell America about the benefits of advanced high-strength steel (AHSS), we traveled to The Ridge Motorsports Park in Shelton, Washington, where we were proud to sponsor the Northwest Automotive Press Association’s (NWAPA) annual Mudfest event.

The event tests both on-road and off-road capabilities of various vehicles, with multiple awards at stake such as the Best Compact Vehicle, Best Family Vehicle, Best Pickup, and more. One vehicle would also earn the title of Northwest Outdoor Activity Vehicle of the Year. As automakers are selling SUVs, crossovers, pickups and other off-road-ready vehicles at an unprecedented pace, NWAPA’s awards are coveted.

Vehicle Lineup

This year’s field of entrants included brands among adventurers like Jeep, Subaru, Honda and Volkswagen. Luxury brands like Mercedes and Volvo even joined the fun, showing “rugged” doesn’t mean “uncomfortable” in their vehicles. A common theme among the entrants? Increased use of AHSS. We already know AHSS-intensive vehicles have been taking home the industry’s top awards. So as automakers look to increase the capabilities of their off-road vehicles, they are stiffening chassis and reducing weight by using more AHSS than ever. A stiff frame enables better handling and fuel efficiency – crucial features when off-roading – and a lighter vehicle means the engine doesn’t have to work as hard. Throw in the Pacific Northwest’s love of the environment – their states are beautiful, and they want to keep them beautiful – and the business case for using AHSS in outdoor activity vehicles is clear.

After testing was finished, the votes were tallied and the last vehicle exited the local car wash, the winners of the 2017 NWAPA Mudfest were announced:

Voting on Day 1

Jeep Compass TrailHawkBest Compact: 2017 Jeep Compass Trailhawk

What a way to start off a new generation! The newly re-designed Jeep Compass’ Trailhawk trim proved it belongs in the storied Jeep lineup as it takes home some new hardware. The new Compass was designed and built with extensive use of AHSS – more than 65 percent in the body structure. This is likely the first of many awards for the Compass, which should put the Jeep brand in line for some healthy sales numbers.

VW Golf AlltrackBest Premium Compact: 2017 Volkswagen Golf Alltrack

The VW Golf Alltrack made good on its name, showing it was capable of handling all sorts of terrain, whether off-road or on-road. Boasting a significant amount of AHSS in its stamped body and chassis, the Golf Alltrack is designed to weather almost anything the road can throw at it. The hatchback’s AHSS usage is part of a larger overall effort to reduce vehicle weight while improving vehicle performance, which has proven successful across the industry. We’d say Volkswagen did a great job – and it looks like NWAPA members agree!

Subaru ForesterBest Family Vehicle: 2017 Subaru Forester

It wouldn’t be a Pacific Northwest event without a Subaru, would it? But this Forester isn’t taking home an award because of its name. The Forester’s ring-shaped frame uses AHSS in select areas to optimize occupant protection in the event of an accident in any direction. Strength and wisdom in material selection ensures this large SUV keeps a family secure at every mile – and on every terrain. Combined with Subaru’s famous all-wheel-drive capabilities, you have a winning recipe!

Jeep Grand Cherokee TrailHawkBest Premium Vehicle: 2017 Jeep Grand Cherokee Trailhawk

Jeep has never been a stranger to the podium, and the top-of-the-line Grand Cherokee is usually the vehicle taking home the hardware. It’s no different here at the NWAPA Mudfest, where members were enthralled by the Grand Cherokee Trailhawk’s handling. The ride comfort and the luxury interior made it a popular vehicle to be driven! The Grand Cherokee’s AHSS body structure provides torsional stiffness, giving the vehicle more control over any terrain it’s traversing.

Ford RaptorBest Pickup Vehicle: 2017 Ford Raptor

Building off of a legacy of off-road expertise, the brand-new Ford Raptor is king of NWAPA’s pickup hill. With a chassis unique to the vehicle, rather than borrowed from the F-150, the Raptor distances itself from its brother by adding more weight-saving AHSS, giving it the strongest frame of the F-Series trucks. Rigid and fully-boxed, the frame helps keep the driver in control no matter what it’s hauling – or what’s underneath the tires. Ford’s use of AHSS is being rewarded with some shiny new hardware!

Land Rover DiscoveryBest Extreme Capability Vehicle: 2017 Land Rover Discovery

Event attendees loved the Discovery’s capability in the mud, while keeping them cozy inside in true Land Rover fashion. We see this victory as a testament to Land Rover’s use of AHSS in key areas of the vehicle, such as in the Discovery’s lightweight subframes. Stiffness in the subframes allow for better steering and chassis performance, especially when the vehicle is off-roading. As larger vehicles capture more market share in today’s automotive industry, this recognition will serve Land Rover well as it seeks volume from America’s outdoor lovers. In addition to this award, the Land Rover Discovery was also given the title “Northwest Outdoor Activity Vehicle of the Year.”

Events like the NWAPA Mudfest are a great way to engage with automotive media and to see what experts are saying about the vehicles they cover. It’s also an opportunity to show how AHSS is accelerating innovation in today’s automotive industry.

What do you think of the awards NWAPA handed out, like the 2017 Jeep Compass Trailhawk winning Best Compact Vehicle? Are any of these vehicles now on your wish list? Let us know in the comments.

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Give Your Vehicle Some TLC!

Spring has sprung! Gone are the dreary days of winter – which means no more slush, road salt or slow traffic (well… hopefully). While many drivers will be making a beeline to the car wash to scrub all of the winter filth away, there’s quite a bit more you can do to ensure your car, truck or SUV looks – and performs – at its best year-round. Investing a bit of money into your vehicle throughout the year will usually pay off in savings down the line. This means going beyond the standard maintenance service (generally a chassis lubrication, oil change and filter replacement) you get at your local shop or dealership. Here are six maintenance items to keep you and your vehicle on the road for many miles.

1.     Interior Detailing

Maybe the most obvious item on this list is also the easiest. Given all the dirt, leaves, wrappers, receipts and other debris coming into our cars, it’s worth taking some time to vacuum it out. Getting in between and underneath your car seats will ensure your vehicle stays clear of dirt and odors – and seldom-seen features like the seat mechanism work properly. But don’t just limit cleaning to car seats and floors – taking wet wipes to the steering wheel, center stack, dashboard and console will remove germs, stickiness and other contaminants that could cause long-term damage to your vehicle – and your health!

Clean Car Seat

2.     Tire Rotation

Though this is included with many professional oil changes, tire rotation is sometimes overlooked as a basic maintenance item. Front-wheel-drive and rear-wheel-drive vehicles typically wear down one pair of tires quicker than the other, so having both pairs “take a turn” being worn down is beneficial. Ensuring your tires wear evenly will save gas, and will likely reduce the number of times you need to change them over the course of a vehicle’s lifetime. The easiest way to check the depth of your tire treads is tried and true – take a penny and stick it into the treads of your tire so Abraham Lincoln is facing you, upside down. If you can see the top of Honest Abe’s head, it means the treads are less than 2/32” thick and it’s time to get new tires! It’s recommended you rotate your tires every 5,000 miles.

Tire Tread Check

3.     Transmission Fluid

Much of the focus on a vehicle is on its engine, and for good reason – it’s what makes your vehicle go! But transmissions are equally as important as engines. In essence, it controls how much power the engine has to produce in order to make the wheels turn. So what does fluid have to do with it? Many of today’s automotive transmissions are hydraulic, meaning they use fluid to control various clutches and change gears. This fluid can wear out over time, which usually leads to serious and costly transmission damage. If your owner’s manual isn’t available, Transmission Repair Guy recommends having your automatic transmission’s fluid replaced every 30,000 to 60,000 miles – or once every two to four years – to make sure the road ahead is smooth sailing.

4.     Windshield Wipers

It’s a cheap, quick fix, but it’s easy to overlook. Windshield wipers are your vehicle’s front line against the elements, with its rubber or silicone edge ensuring a driver has clear vision during inclement weather. This edge wears down over time, leaving streaks on your windshield. Certain wiper blades (such as Bosch ICON or Rain-X Latitude Water Repellency 2-in-1) apply a hydrophobic coating onto your windshield, which prevents water from accumulating long after it’s been used. It’s recommended you change your windshield wipers at least once per year, ideally before they start wearing out. You do yourself a disservice by putting off replacement of your windshield wipers – keep your vision clear as you move forward!

Windshield wipers

5.     Wheels

Hearing a loud, piercing noise as you roll up to a red light? Sounds like it’s time to change your brakes. Most drivers are aware of how brakes work – brake pads rub against an inner part of the wheel called the rotor– but there’s more to taking good care of your wheels than just the brake pads. The calipers, the push-and–pull mechanism, need to stay tight and free from rust. Brake fluid, which impacts how brakes respond to the pressing and depressing of the brake pedal, may need to be changed periodically as well – it depends on your manufacturer. Stopping your vehicle is just as important as starting it, so ensure the totality of your vehicle’s brake system is well-maintained.

6.     Power Steering Fluid

Power steering didn’t start appearing in mass-produced vehicles until the 1951 Chrysler Imperial, but it has been nearly standard ever since. Larger vehicles – including high-strength steel-intensive trucks and SUVs preferred by today’s automotive customers – would be difficult to maneuver without it. Using a hydraulic system, force is applied to the steering gear via double-acting hydraulic cylinders. The fluid in these reservoirs needs to be changed periodically. The rule of thumb, per, is to replace it every two years or 24,000 miles. It goes a long way towards ensuring you’re always in control!

Vehicle maintenance manifests itself in multiple ways – and it goes beyond oil changes, car washes and the occasional brake replacement. Following these steps will help you get more miles (and more memories!) out of your beloved vehicle. It’s also important for your vehicle to retain value.

Did we miss anything? What do you recommend makes life on the road easier? Leave us a comment and let’s chat!

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