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Old 01-11-2013, 02:26 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Commercially-produced rear wheel skirts

Unless you drive an American sedan from the 1950's, there seems to be a lack of commercially-produced rear wheel skirt kits. So after chatting about fuel economy with a buddy of mine who owns a local tool and die shop, we put our heads together on how to commercially produce kits and make them economically feasible. At his shop, we have the options of stamping/forming them out of metal (expensive but heavy-duty), or vacuum forming ABS plastic (inexpensive and light, but lower durability). Fiberglass would be right in the middle, but neither of us have expertise in this area. We estimated that metal could be viable at around $200/pair while ABS reduces that to about $80/pair. Color-match paint not included, but possible for an additional fee assuming availability. Our intent is to produce quality kits that match the OE styling of the vehicle and require little effort to install and remove, not a "universal" kit that requires plenty of DIY for fitment.

These figures assume a certain production level of each skirt per month, and of course popularity would be a factor in pricing the kits by demand.

Just based on the statistics of the garage here, we came up with a list of vehicles considered to be priority:

Honda Civic
Toyota Corolla
Geo Metro
Saturn SLx
Toyota Prius
Chevy S-10/GMC Sonoma ( based on my own ulterior motives )

So the questions for the group are simple:
  • How would you prioritize or alter this list?
  • How attractive are those price points?
  • Which material would you prefer?

Thanks for your insight (no pun intended). We'll be seeking donor vehicles in the Memphis-metro area for a gratis pair per model once we settle on priorities.

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Old 01-11-2013, 02:53 PM   #2 (permalink)
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Neither of my vehicles made your list, but I'd pick up a pair for both of them in ABS form at $80 a set.

As for order: I'd start with Prius/C/V (larger market of newer vehicles)
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Old 01-11-2013, 03:33 PM   #3 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by nbleak21 View Post
Neither of my vehicles made your list, but I'd pick up a pair for both of them in ABS form at $80 a set.

As for order: I'd start with Prius/C/V (larger market of newer vehicles)
Prius C with skirts is rather sexy... now if only photoshop would export to CAD. lol
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Old 01-11-2013, 04:25 PM   #4 (permalink)
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Since I have both a '99 Metro (Suzuki Swift technically, but I think they're the same thing), and a '00 S-15 Jimmy (= S-Blazer), I'd probably be interested in a pair each to help the cause. - the cheaper ABS @ $80 a set -

I always assumed I'd make them myself, but if these you're doing are "nice", they'll probably be better than what some of my homemade crap would turn out like .......

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Bill
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Old 01-11-2013, 08:18 PM   #5 (permalink)
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I think the 2012 Mustang should be moved to the top of that list.

80 seems reasonable, but no way on 200. Maybe do painting instead?
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Old 01-11-2013, 09:29 PM   #6 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by nbleak21 View Post
I'd start with Prius/C/V (larger market of newer vehicles)
I think this is good advice, and I would stick to the green cars like Prius and Insight and maybe a couple others because those buyers might more commonly find FE-related accessories "good looking" and be happy to pay. For the used car and DIY type modders found here, well, your list looks good. The Civic is a very common car and so it might be practical even back to the 1992-1995 fifth generation. I also would be curious as to whether the 5th, 6th, and 7th generation civics all had nearly the same rear wheel well shape. I would consider buying a pair... my second DIY set has been delayed for lack of time and a desire to have them look "right" (though I have relatively few skills).
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See my MODDING THREAD for ongoing projects. Black and Green's garage entry has more details. I plan to DIY rebuild this car over decades as parts die--replacing or modding small and major parts until it becomes a different car of roughly the same shape. My fuel economy goal is 60+ mpg while averaging posted speed limits.
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Old 01-11-2013, 10:18 PM   #7 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by UltArc View Post
I think the 2012 Mustang should be moved to the top of that list.

80 seems reasonable, but no way on 200. Maybe do painting instead?
What's your basis for picking the 'stang? Hehe. Yeah, we figured 200 was going a little high for the average commuter, but it would be a much better product for those that want it. Fab costs for metal are unfortunately just going to push it up there.

Quote:
Originally Posted by California98Civic View Post
I think this is good advice, and I would stick to the green cars like Prius and Insight and maybe a couple others because those buyers might more commonly find FE-related accessories "good looking" and be happy to pay. For the used car and DIY type modders found here, well, your list looks good. The Civic is a very common car and so it might be practical even back to the 1992-1995 fifth generation. I also would be curious as to whether the 5th, 6th, and 7th generation civics all had nearly the same rear wheel well shape. I would consider buying a pair... my second DIY set has been delayed for lack of time and a desire to have them look "right" (though I have relatively few skills).
Totally with you there. The list was based on those that we thought could really benefit from the kit, rather than those who might be interesting in slapping something trendy on their shiny new hybrid. Sorry if that sounds a little harsh... although at the same time, we joked about doing an infomercial and selling "the latest in fuel-saving technology" at 3am whilst making ridiculous claims of 30% better FE.
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Old 01-12-2013, 10:43 AM   #8 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SCNTN View Post
What's your basis for picking the 'stang? Hehe. Yeah, we figured 200 was going a little high for the average commuter, but it would be a much better product for those that want it. Fab costs for metal are unfortunately just going to push it up there.



Totally with you there. The list was based on those that we thought could really benefit from the kit, rather than those who might be interesting in slapping something trendy on their shiny new hybrid. Sorry if that sounds a little harsh... although at the same time, we joked about doing an infomercial and selling "the latest in fuel-saving technology" at 3am whilst making ridiculous claims of 30% better FE.
As an historian who sometimes has these eco-marketing conversations with students wide-eyed and interested in making change in practical ways, I'll say that I think there might be another way to conceive of effective marketing that avoids the exaggerated claims. Part of the Prius appeal is the cool factor of its technology; and that is a personal value to which you might be able to sell persuasively. "Wheel skirts" are a technology too, one developed in the history of cars as a way to reduce drag. So show people cool aero cars out of the past--production and/or experimental--and show them a stylish item with high production value, playing to the "I'm smart" sensibility with a short discussion of drag and a realistic claim for benefits. Some will buy... how many and whether its enough for a business is what market research would have to address. But my point is that the exaggerated claims are based in the I think false idea that the only thing that will sell is the cash savings, whereas if that were true people would not fall for all the gadgety upgrades they are offered all the time. Make it good looking (paint them all) and make it smart-cool and claim a realistic fuel savings. That might work too. And you wouldn't get sued when people discover they don't save 30% on fuel.
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GOALS FOR THE SUMMER POSTED HERE

See my MODDING THREAD for ongoing projects. Black and Green's garage entry has more details. I plan to DIY rebuild this car over decades as parts die--replacing or modding small and major parts until it becomes a different car of roughly the same shape. My fuel economy goal is 60+ mpg while averaging posted speed limits.

Last edited by California98Civic; 01-12-2013 at 07:08 PM..
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Old 01-12-2013, 12:17 PM   #9 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by California98Civic View Post
But my point is that the exaggerated claims are based in the I think false idea that the only thing that will sell is the cash savings, whereas if that were true people would not fall for all the gadgety upgrades they are offered all the time. Make it good looking (paint them all) and make it smart-cool and claim a realistic fuel savings. That might work too. And you wouldn't get sued when people discover they don't save 30% on fuel.
True, but how many weight-loss pills advertise ridiculous claims "when used with a sensible diet"? There's always a catch. The same holds true for the skirts, when included with a basic hypermiling guide. The gains would mostly be the result of changes in driving habits, supplemented with the aero gains from the skirts. Butt covered.

For the business practicality of it all... we're not looking at this as a full-time business, just to fill a niche. In order to be a completely self-sustaining operation, we'd have to sell on the order of 100 units per week. Not a totally unrealistic goal considering there are over 250M passenger vehicles in the US alone, with about 5M new vehicles sold annually.

I do have a direct line with the sales manager at a local Toyota dealership. I've already had a conversation with him regarding selling them as a dealer-installed option. The dealer could charge practically whatever they want, since everything gets rolled into the finance agreement nowadays. Considering our intent is to produce an OE-quality item, he sees no problem with fitting them on a few demo vehicles, assuming all legal liabilities can be overcome. That, of course, will be the biggest hurdle of all. The other bonus for the dealer is color-matching the skirts to the vehicle, since the they would do it on-site with skilled techs. That boosts our quality control since we don't have to paint-match, and the dealer can purchase the panels at a lower price. Win-win.
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Old 01-12-2013, 01:39 PM   #10 (permalink)
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If you were in Southern Cali I would propose to you and students an internship idea.

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See my MODDING THREAD for ongoing projects. Black and Green's garage entry has more details. I plan to DIY rebuild this car over decades as parts die--replacing or modding small and major parts until it becomes a different car of roughly the same shape. My fuel economy goal is 60+ mpg while averaging posted speed limits.
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