@Charles: Yes, there is a Japanese patent (2010-254255) that covers this invention.
Interestingly enough, there is a U.S. patent (7,850,182), assigned to Hyundai, that covers something pretty similar, except that the extrusion has a double wall, and is formed in a different way. Hyundai presented their work at the SAE World Congress. I'm not sure whether this is currently being used on any Hyundai vehicles or not.
Hyundai had a lot of problems with corrosion on steel control arms a few years ago, so their interest in aluminum control arms is understandable. (Of course, aluminum is not immune to corrosion, either, as the Suzuki engineers found out!)
I wonder what the business implications of this are. Are any aspects of this technology patentable? Could Suzuki be seeing some licensing revenue on the horizon? With the 54.5-mpg mandate coming, I'm sure a lot of automakers would be interested.
@Charles: Actually, it weighs 50% less at an equal cost, compared to a welded steel part. The 30% figure is in comparison to an aluminum die casting, but the die casting is more expensive.
Unfortunately, the paper doesn't say the amount of weight saved, just the percentage reduction. The big deal, which I should have mentioned in the article, is that this is unsprung weight. Reductions in unsprung weight mean better ride quality in addition to better fuel economy.
By the way, if you want to know what the part looks like, it's part 16 in this diagram.
It's unfortunate that Suzuki made the decision to stop selling cars in the U.S., because the Kizashi is a pretty neat car. However, the authors indicated that this technology may find its way into Suzuki's ATVs and other vehicles.
What an amazing story. Too often, the best material innovations cost far too much and therefore never see the light of day. It seems hard to believe, but most automakers fight for pennies -- because by the time they build a million of one part, those pennies add up. It's startling to see a part that weighs 30% less at equal cost. Dave, any idea how many pounds are saved here?
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