Honda's lightweighting efforts include welding panels to frames

Honda Motor Co. is looking to cut weight from its vehicles by changing its manufacturing methods to reduce the number of bolts and reinforcement materials, Reuters reported, citing the Japanese newspaper Nikkei.

The Japanese automaker will start welding exterior panels to the vehicle frames instead of assembling the vehicle's side, ceiling and other panels individually, according to the wire service. Honda is using the new method for its N Box mini-vehicle (pictured), which debuted in Japan earlier this month, and will expand the practice to all models within the next few years. The practice cut the N Box's weight by about 10 percent as well as reduced manufacturing costs.

Honda is among many automakers trying to cut vehicle weight as a way to reduce fuel economy in order to conform to more stringent greenhouse-gas emissions standards both in the U.S. and overseas. By making its cars lighter, Honda's also trying to speed up its entry to emerging markets, Reuters said.

Honda's model-year 2010 U.S. vehicles achieved a fleetwide 25.6 miles per gallon combined, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. That was second-best to Hyundai among the 14 largest U.S. vehicle makers. It's also 3.1 mpg better than the overall average, so any increase just puts competitors further behind.

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