Auburn Hills, MI —About fifty pounds better. That's how much better the newly designed Dodge Caravan, Chrysler Plymouth, and Chrysler Town & Country minivans protect occupants. With the primary goal of improving offset-crash performance, DiamlerChrysler engineers added 47 lbs of steel, mostly to the front end.
An additional 47 lbs of structural steel enhances crash safety performance on DaimlerChrysler Corp.'s minivans.
But engineers did more than just beef up the structure. They carefully balanced requirements for various types of collisions using sophisticated computer analyses and extensive crash testing. For example, a structure optimized to enhance offset protection would differ markedly from a structure optimized for head-on collisions. Instead of full-frontal contact, as in a head-on collision, offset crashes involve a vehicle crossing the centerline and hitting an oncoming car with front ends partially overlapping.
"Frontal protection uses a relatively 'soft' front structure that crumples upon impact, expending violent crash forces," explains VP of Minivan Platform Engineering Gordon Rinschler. "In contrast, protecting against lower leg damage caused by intrusion into the passenger compartment is the central focus in offset crashes. And that is best minimized by a 'stiff'—not soft—front structure."
To stiffen the minivan, engineers strengthened the underbody structure, including the two longitudinal rails that run the length of the vehicle. They also reinforced the upper load beam located over the fender, bulkheads incorporated into the sills below the doors, horizontal pillars that support the front doors, and structural elements that prevent intrusion into the footwell.
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